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Friday Five – June 17, 2011

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been able to crank one of these out. Either I or my laptop has been unavailable. The laptop is now sporting a brand new SSD drive, though, so it was worth the interruption in content, at least to me.

So, kicking things off this week, an in-depth article on search ranking in SharePoint 2010:

#1 – Improve SharePoint Search Relevance [NothingButSharePoint.com]

SharePoint Enterprise Search includes a ranking engine developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research. It is specifically tuned for the unique requirements of searching enterprise content.

The great news is that it is possible for IT Professionals to customize the way SharePoint ranks search results. This can be done through creating a custom model (ranking model) and instructing SharePoint to use the custom model in a particular area of the solution or even to set the new ranking model as the default for SharePoint Search.

This article will provide you with the necessary background for SharePoint Ranking Models and will guide you through the process of creating and implementing your own custom ranking models.

There’s a ton of detailed info in this article, but even for the casual SharePoint user it provides a bit of insight. The first sentence I quoted points out that searching enterprise content is a different beast than searching the web. No, you really don’t want Google as your intranet search, so need something smarter that understands the nuances of your business and company. Admittedly we have not focused a lot of effort on search at Praxair yet, but as we move to SharePoint 2010 it will become an area of focus.


#2 – The Filter Bubble [Chris Smith-WNYMedia.net]


Essentially, Facebook, Google and others are turning into automated confirmation bias machines. Facebook, specifically, is trying to optimize your news feed to make it pleasurable for you to come back frequently, generate page views and increase ad clicks. As Facebook becomes the personal internet for people around the globe, is the company optimizing for social value by actively working to challenge your personal assumptions and connect you with people who might disagree with you? Not really.

The idea behind this article is really thought-provoking. Programmers have been continually striving to make “social” mean “understanding you better” so they can feed you more “relevant” information. But is that a good thing? Be sure to also watch the 9 minute TED video embedded in the article to learn more about this phenomenon.


#3- International Usability: Big Stuff the Same, Details Differ [useit.com]

Earlier this year, we ran a range of usability studies of websites, intranets, and mobile sites and apps in Australia, China, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of course, we’ve always done lots of international testing (in 13 countries total), but this latest round — which covered 3 very different parts of the world — offered a good opportunity to step back and consider the big picture of international user experience.

(Definition of international usability: the effectiveness of user interfaces when used in any other country than the one in which they were designed.)

The highest-level conclusion? People are the same the world over, and all the main usability guidelines remain the same. After all, usability guidelines are derived from the principles of human–computer interaction (HCI), which are founded on the characteristics of computers and the human brain and the many ways the two differ.

Relevant info as we’re now starting to roll out intranet sites for other countries.


#4 – Traditional Texting Slows As Instant Messaging Grows In Popularity [The Consumerist]

Cellphone users sent and received more than a trillion texts in the second half of 2010, which is only an 8.7% increase over the previous six months. That marks the smallest gain in texting since it became de rigeur 10 years ago.

Apple announced their version of instant messaging this week, which will allow Apple users to send free messages to each other over the Internet. Google is said to be developing a messaging application for Android software as well, and RIM’s BlackBerry users are already fans of its messenger service.

Texting revenue reached $25 billion in the U.S. and Canada in 2010, with fees from around 20 cents per text or unlimited monthly plans for an additional fee. So without that, cellphone carriers are going to be pretty annoyed, considering many people would rather text than actually carry on a conversation.

The fact that people are willing to pay as much for texting as they do baffles me. It’s a tiny amount of data yet the fee for use is astronomically marked up (7314% by this article’s calculation). IM has been around longer that texting, which makes it even more baffling that people will pay for something they used to be able to do for free. Now that the phone technology is catching up to computers, the text-based communication methods are coming full circle. (For what it’s worth – I use Google Voice to text for free.)


#5 – Jobs’ Spaceship Apple Headquarters: A Dream 30 Years In the Making [Gizmodo]

Steve Jobs recently approached the Cupertino City Council with what seemed like the crazy vision of building a spaceship-like campus for Apple HQ. It turns out he had the same dream back in 1983. And it was just as ambitious.

Back in those more youthful days, Jobs approached the newly-elected mayor of San Jose, Tom McEnery, with a plan that would forever change their fortunes. His’ idea was something out of storybooks, “a shimmery glass structure surrounded by oaks and grasses.” He had even hired renowned architect I.M. Pei, the man responsible for the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, for the job. While viewing Coyote Valley—deemed to be the next frontier in development—for the first time, Jobs was “unequivocal about the vision he saw there,” envisioning a campus that incorporated the landscape into the design.

What can’t Steve Jobs do? I watched most of the city council video and I was amused by two things – one Steve Jobs is a lousy speaker, and two the Cupertino City Council may be the biggest Apple fanboys/girls in existence. At least they have the tax revenue as an excuse.

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  1. The Filter Bubble concept is thought-provoking, but I read a Slate article that disagreed with the premise, pointing out that Google’s personalization doesn’t really filter all that much out.

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