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Google is on the verge of announcing changes to its mobile search parameters, changes that could affect millions of small business owners and cause what some media pundits are referring to as “mobilegeddon”.  The change essentially boils down to this:  going forward mobile friendly links will be promoted in search results and those that aren’t mobile friendly will not be promoted.  As Business Insider reports:  “The algorithm will start favoring mobile-friendly websites (ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on) and ranking them higher in search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted.”

While the sudden change is likely to anger a lot of people it certainly does make sense to update the algorithm to reflect the changing times.  More and more people are using their phones, tablets, and other mobile devices to access the internet.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be rewarding those companies that contribute to a better mobile experience.  Ultimately though none of this is going to matter because the next step in the evolution of search isn’t a better algorithm.  It’s a whole new search engine.  One designed specifically for mobile devices.

The technology that’s going to help build that mobile search engine is known as deep linking.  Now this isn’t a new concept, it’s been underpinning the way we search on the internet for years, but what is new is the fact that it’s going to be used in mobile devices.

What exactly is deep linking?  Well, aTechCrunch describes it’s, “the technology that lets mobile apps reach outside of their respective walled gardens so that users can search and navigate between specific places within them.”  Essentially, this means that instead of having a collection of highly individualized apps that you have to access one by one, you could, in theory, have a bundle of apps that are capable of communicating with one another and taking care of all your needs at once.  The apps, instead of behaving like apps, would basically operate as if they were web pages interconnected within one world wide mobile web.

So how would it play out?  Well, a likely primary use case for a mobile search engine would be to type in a keyword, say the name of a restaurant, and to receive relevant app based results that leverage the likes of Yelp, Open Table, MapQuest, Uber, etc. so that you can read reviews, make a reservation, and get directions or book a ride as you hop from one app to the next without ever having to go back to your home screen.  When you consider the way in which we use our phones this is a much better approach to search than parsing through standard google results of static web pages on your phone’s browser and then entering into a bunch of different apps one by one.

As Read Write puts it, “Most mobile apps live in their own silos, and offer no way to directly access photos, stories, messages and other information to which they control access. Instead of letting you tap through to a relevant page, mobile links generally direct you to the app’s own home page—leaving you to search around the app, often in vain, for whatever you’re really looking for.”  Thanks to the power of deep linking we may be able to change that and start delivering relevant mobile search results.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what the future of search is going to entail.  Is the next big thing going to be a DNA search engine, a search engine for the Internet of Things, or a predictive search engine that anticipates what you’re going to search for before you even realize that you want to search for it?

I don’t know.  All I know is that the future of search as far as it relates to mobile devices is on the verge of changing.  And it won’t be an algorithm that makes the biggest difference.  It’ll be deep linking.

Is deep linking the Greatest Idea Ever?

Living in the greater Phoenix metro area is great for antiquing.  There are ton of antique stores, consignment shops, weekend flea markets, etc.  There are also a ton of garage sales, yard sales, moving sales, estate sales, etc.  I can find the antique stores thanks to Google.  But what I can’t find are the random garage sales.

In order to find one of those you have to be in the right place at the right time.  Driving by that exact side street at that exact time or taking the chance that you’ll be steered in the right direction by blindly following a series of haphazardly thrown together, hand written signs made out of fluorescent oak tag.  Shouldn’t there be a better way?  A way to steer interested parties towards all of the garage sales occurring in each neighborhood so that people can make a day out of hunting for bargains?  A way that doesn’t involve following signs or trails of bread crumbs?

I think there should be and it shouldn’t be too hard to pull off.  If it’s possible to build an app that tells you where open parking spots are it should be possible to build an app that tells you where the nearest garage sale is.  Of course such an app would only work if enough people participated and posted their sale to the app.  But in the interest of, I don’t know, actually selling shit, shouldn’t they be motivated to do just that?

Now there are some websites and apps already in existence that aim to do exactly what I’m talking about.  But one of them just aggregates posts from Craigslist and the rest look like they were built as homework assignments for a class learning how to code.  What the market really needs is a sleek app that people would actually want to use.  One with a catchy name that people will actually remember.  And not something like garagesalelocator.com.

The app doesn’t have to be that detailed.  Just list the address, a brief listing or description of some of the items for sale, and a picture or two.  Offer some flash sales i.e. a message that reads “hurry over to Mark’s house on Main Street – for the next twenty minutes everything is half off!” and you’re off the races.  If you want to go really crazy have it act the way Twitter does when someone is live tweeting an event with home owners providing running commentary on what’s getting sold and what’s still left in an effort to generate buzz about their sale.

Speaking of social networks perhaps what is really needed is a social network for collectors.  A place for people to list their interests and what they’re searching for or what they have to sell.  Participants in this social network could interact with one another and steer each other towards finding what they’re looking for.  It would be a social version of an online marketplace.  A combination of Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook.  The garage sale locator could easily go hand in hand with this social network as part of a larger initiative targeted towards the weekend warriors who make a habit out of going through another’s man trash to find a treasure.

At the very least wouldn’t you agree that a garage sale locator is something that should exist?  After all, how else are we supposed to find a bunch of junk that we don’t need?

Is a garage sale locator and social network for collectors the Greatest Idea Ever?

Here’s a quick look at a few of the things I’ve been thinking about lately:

  • Now that April 15th has passed and you’ve filed your taxes you’re probably getting ready to go on a shopping spree once your tax refund comes in.  Sounds good, right?  Well, if you really think about that refund isn’t as great as it seems.  That’s because you’re basically providing the government with an interest free loan.  And the favor is not returned.  As Five Thirty Eight reports, “Getting a refund means you paid too much in taxes last year and the government is paying that money back — without interest. People who underpay, on the other hand, owe interest and possibly a fine as well.”  Shouldn’t we change this?
  • If you’ve ever gotten called for Jury Duty chances are you’ve tried to get out of it.  Rather than have juries filled with people who don’t want to be there, people who may not understand how the legal system works or who may not understand the specifics of the case, shouldn’t we have well trained, full time jurors who know what they are doing and who will take their jobs very seriously?  Not only would we be improving the legal system but we’d also be creating jobs.
  • Using an electric razor saves time but can also be messy as hairs fall onto your body or onto the surface of the sink that you’re standing over.  Wouldn’t it be great then if there was a way to catch those hairs before they fall?  Perhaps razors could come up with a bag attachment to catch the hairs just like an old fashioned lawn mower.
  • Going to Disney or another theme park with young kids can be a lot of fun.  It also can be exhausting.  Waiting on hour long lines is a major buzz kill too.  Wouldn’t it be great then if you could better take advantage of that downtime while you wait on line?  Perhaps instead of having lines that you stand in we can have conveyor belts that come equipped with sleeping pods.  You go around the conveyor belt while taking a nap until it’s your turn for the ride.  After your nap you’ll be refreshed, ready to tackle the rest of the park.
  • If your tall and have a lot of keys on your key chain chances are that you have keys that hit into your leg while you drive since the car ignition is located adjacent to the steering wheel right above where your leg is.  This is silly.  Let’s move the location of the car ignition!
  • Speaking of cars we now have vehicles that drive and park themselves but what we don’t have are cars that come equipped with pimped out trunks.  Specifically what I’m looking for are trunks that come complete with a built in freezer so that you can have a place to store perishables after you go food shopping or a place to store beers when you’re tailgating.
  • Why is it that we can put a silencer on a gun but we can’t put noise cancelling technology onto other objects like vacuums, electric razors, hair dryers, and blenders?

Is installing sleeping pods at Disney while you wait in line the Greatest Idea Ever?

Ever so often we hear about a new way to generate electricity.  From harnessing the power of the wind, sun’s rays, or motion of the oceans there’s no shortage of creative attempts at generating electricity.  There’s even been several attempts recently towards enabling us to charge our cell phones while we walk using the motion of our bodies to generate power.

But the other day a new method was proposed that really takes the cake.  A method that could have a profound effect on the energy market and the way we go about living our lives on a daily basis.  A method that can make us have a new found appreciation for the humble task of looking out the window.  That’s because our windows might soon be able to produce electricity thanks to a newly created type of smart glass.

As Extreme Tech writes, “a team of researchers have developed a new kind of smart glass containing materials that enable the triboelectric effect, which captures the energy inherent in static electricity that occurs when two different materials collide.  In other words, the glass can not only change color, but create electricity as well…”

In order for the glass to work all you need is for something to collide with it and since it’s an outside facing surface lots of things are going to collide with it from wind to rain to snow.  When that happens energy is created and then stored.

If you live in a harsh climate where it rains a lot (Seattle, Florida, London), where it’s always windy (Chicago, San Francisco), where there are dust storms (Phoenix), where it snows (Boston, New York), windows made out of this glass could definitely come in handy.  At first you probably won’t be able to power your entire house but at the very least you should be able to recharge your phone.  Perhaps even wirelessly.

I wonder what the next novel approach to generating electricity is going to be?!?!

Is a smart glass that generates electricity the Greatest Idea Ever?

I fear going down the rabbit hole.  Getting so consumed with something that I lose my way.  Lose my ability to regain control of my life.  It’s why I try to avoid things that I would probably love out of fear of them becoming massive time sucks.  Massively multi-player online games for one.  Galaxy Zoo for another.  But unfortunately (fortunately?) I may have finally found something that is going to be impossible to ignore.  Impossible to stay away from.  Something so awesome, so great, so epic that it can only be described as awe-inspiring.  Ladies and gentlemen I present to you my new obsession:  Product Hunt, a website dedicated to listing the best new products that have emerged each and every day as upvoted by the site’s users.

As someone whose always on the hunt for The Next Best Thing I’m blown away by the fact that there’s now a place that does all of the dirty work for me.   Instead of searching dozens of different websites, refreshing Flipboard obsessively, and scrolling endlessly on Twitter I can now sit back and relax as the hunt come to me.    Presumably this is how media companies like Wired, Fast Company, TechCrunch, etc. have been finding out about the latest innovations and trends before the rest of the mainstream media catches on.  Well now the playing field has been leveled!  Now it’s my turn to get in on the action!

What’s really great about the site though, aside from how easy it is to use and how sleek it looks, is the fact that the content is created by the people in the know.  Posts are generally from the company’s founders or from the app developers themselves mostly in an attempt to solicit feedback from the community.  Instead of reading like a press release it reads like an email exchange among friends.  And it’s oddly fascinating.  It’s almost like you’re a fly on the wall in a product development meeting at a big company, witnessing the creative process in action.  As TechCrunch writes, “What makes Product Hunt so popular isn’t just a sum of its features, but rather the quality of the community that it has grown.  The products that find their way to the top of the site often later become the next day’s headlines.  Or sometimes, the products getting headlines become Product Hunt’s favorites of the day.”

Like the days of an advent calendar not all of the products that are listed are going to be winners.  Floating web browers, a way to make portraits out of selfies, an extension that changes Game of Thrones spoilers into scenes from Friends just to name a few.  There’s also a lot of products that blatantly copy already existing ideas.  The uber of this, the AirBnB of that.  And sadly, when it comes to product names its clear that the phenomenon of adding ly to the end of a name or intentionally misspelling it is not going away any time soon.  But there’s also a ton of great ideas on there.  It’s where I first find out about the topic of this morning’s blog post, Chhirp.  And it’s where I’m likely to find even more inspiration for future posts.

All in all,  I’m a big fan of this site as it makes me happy to know that there are like minded people out there who care about new products and innovations as much as I do.  People who want to have a say in how the product turns out and who want to help that product get discovered.  Not because they’re getting paid to do so but rather just because they care.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to the hunt!  You never know what might pop up next!

Is Product Hunt the Greatest Idea Ever?

#660 – Chhirp

I’ve long maintained that sound is an underutilized phenomenon.  One that has not yet been fully exploited by Silicon Valley.  Sure there’s SoundCloud and Rap Genius but to date no startup or product has come along that has really made a significant audio based impact.  Until now that is.  That’s because Chhirp is set to explode onto the scene in the Twitterverse the way that Meerkat and Periscope recently have.

A self described mic button for Twitter, Chhirp enables users to post 12 second long voice clips to the fledgling social media platform.  What was once a simple platform for communicating in 144 characters or less is now jam packed with six second long videos (Vine), live streaming video (Periscope and Meerkat), and soon 12 second long audio clips (Chhirp).

12 seconds may not seem like a long time to communicate a message and while that may be true it also seems like the perfect time constraint compliment to six second videos and 144 character tweets.  Just long enough to make a point but not long enough to ramble.

So what can short audio clips be used for?  Well, I can easily imagine they being used by athletes, politicians, comedians, news reporting services and the like to promote relevant sound bites.  Perhaps even in conjunction with other tweets that contain video clips as a way of introducing them or explaining them.  It could also add some extra oomph to flame wars although that may not necessarily be a good thing.  Or it could be used for something else entirely.  As The Next Web writes, “it’s so new that its primary ‘killer’ use case probably hasn’t even been discovered yet.”

When it’s all said and done though the best part about this product may have nothing to do with Twitter at all.  That’s because the technology can also be used to embed audio clips anywhere on the Web. Meaning that you’ll soon have the added pleasure of listening to me rant and rave about the latest innovations not just write about them.

All in all, we’re looking at a technology that could be a real game changer.  One that fills the audio void in our social media consumed lives and opens up a whole new method of communicating with one another.

The founders of Chhirp sum it up best on a recent post on Medium:

“Thanks to the power of voice, Chhirp brings nuance, emotion, multiple speakers, ambiance and more to your tweets, without losing the brevity and immediacy of Twitter.  It’s worth remembering that Twitter came out of a podcasting company. They ultimately chose text as the medium because SMS was the most universal way to operate at that time. But things have changed a lot since 2006 and now audio can be shared across the Web in a fraction of a second, right from your smartphone — and soon from your watch.  We think it’s time voice made a comeback and we can’t wait to hear what people say…”

I have a feeling that what they’ll be saying will be very complimentary of Chhirp.  About one another?  Probably not so much.

Is Chhirp the Greatest Idea Ever?

#659 – Paperspace

Wherever you’re reading this from chances are you’re doing so from a computer that’s not as powerful as it could be.  Perhaps you’re doing so from your web based Chromebook that can’t run desktop based applications.  Or maybe you’re doing it from the same laptop that you’ve had since 2007, the one that you’re too cheap to upgrade because it has “sentimental value”.  Or perhaps your using an even older computer in a public library because you don’t even own one anymore. 

Wouldn’t it be great then if you could access a more powerful computer?  One that does more than just perform basic operations like word processing and web browsing.  And that you could do so whenever and wherever you wanted?  And better yet wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to lug around said computer? 

Well, thanks to Paperspace you’re about to get your wish for they have created a high end computer that lives in the cloud that anyone can access from a standard web browser.  A proverbial computer within a computer.  Correction.  A literal computer within a computer.

Cloud based computers aren’t a new concept but what’s great about Paperspace’s product, dubbed paperweight, is that it’s bringing the concept to the masses by making an easy to use product that can be marketed towards students, coders, and regular folk alike.  AsTechCrunch writes, ”there’s a broader market that could be served, too, the founders have since realized, as a simple interface could mean schools could update outdated computer labs, and even enterprise customers may want to use its devices because they’re cheaper than buying regular computers, and they’re easier for employees to use. In a way, the company sees Paperspace as being the cloud computing equivalent to something like how Dropbox simplified file-sharing – which had been possible for years through solutions like FTP, for instance, but never clicked with consumers until it was better designed and made easy to use.”

Okay, so now that we have an accessible product that’s easy to use what exactly can we use it for?  Well, there are no shortage of options.  Simulations, renderings, photo and video editing, coding, streaming, perhaps even video games.  The list goes on and on.  Whether you’re a student, young professional, hacker, or small business owner chances are you’re going to have a need for more computing power from time to time.  Computing power that you probably don’t have access to on your own accord.  Instead of wasting the time and money on obtaining that computer power you now have a quick and easy work around.

But, wait, there’s not all.  Other than having access to better computing power there are even more benefits to using a cloud based computer.  For example, you no longer have to worry about a fire or flood or spilled cup of coffee ruining your expensive, hard to replace hardware.  And as Gizmag writes, “One of the key advantages is that your computer won’t get laggy or slow down over time, thanks to the upgrades and optimization happening on the Paperspace side. You could think of it as a monthly subscription fee to keep your computer as good as new (and accessible from anywhere).” 

Considering how quickly computers become obsolete nowadays paying for the right to always have the latest version seems like something well worth paying for.  What I find most exciting about this concept though is what it means for the future of computing.  Combine Paperweight with Chromebit, a device capable of turning any TV into a computer screen, and it becomes readily apparent that the days of traditional desktops and laptops are long gone.  I can’t wait to see what else the future of computing has in store for us.  Long live the cloud!

 Is Paperspace the Greatest Idea Ever?

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