Monday, May 23, 2011


Hi all,

as you have no doubt realised, posting has pretty much dried up here. That's not because we haven't found any more cool new to share, but rather that we are moving over to a more 'official' blog as part of the BMF website. This will be launching sometime in the next month or so and i'll post a link here when it does.

Thanks for your interest and look forward to sharing more stickiness with you on the new space soon.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The question of reputation

Insightful post from Techcruch outlining some of the players and positions in what may well turn into the next big battle ground in the socialization of the web: your reputation

The Q&A land rush is on. Quora, of course, has been hyped to the moon, and not without reason. Fortune magazine recently profiled five more Q&A sites, and three new ones just launched: Cloudy, where your friends answer your questions via SMS; InboxQ, Q&A on Twitter; and Setlr1, which is like Twitter for yes/no questions. Is this a bubble full of copycats doomed to wither into Yahoo Answers Redux? Maybe – but I don’t think so. I think there’s something important going on here, and it’s more than just questions and answers. I think these are the first skirmishes in the reputation wars.

The identity wars are already over. Facebook won, Twitter snagged the silver medal, and OpenID lost. Log In With Facebook and their associated Open Graph have succeeded so thoroughly that Facebook increasingly defines users’ online identities across a whole panoply of sites. But who will define and codify our online reputations? That’s a question whose answer will matter – a lot.

Right now we only have ad-hoc measures to determine online reputations: LinkedIn’s recommendations, Twitter users’ following:followers ratio, third-party influence measurements a la Topsy, and raw friend/follower/connection counts. That last is the crudest and least useful, which is why Facebook itself isn’t really built for reputation measurement. Quora, however, is a serious contender, if they get their PeopleRank algorithm right.

But there’s another massively successful Q&A site out there, one whose reputation measurement already has significant effects: StackOverflow, a problem-solving-for-programmers site cofounded by Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software. While Quora gets all the hype, StackOverflow quietly racks up sixteen million unique visitors a month. It’s by far the most professionally useful site on the Internet. Like many if not most developers, I use it every single workday. One of my complaints about Google is that it should, but doesn’t, catapult StackOverflow into its top five search results for almost every software topic. I like Quora a lot, but if I had to choose between the two, it’d be no choice at all. Quora is interesting; StackOverflow is important.

Lately, though, Joel, his partner Jeff Atwood, and the StackOverflow community have spun off dozens of other Q&A sites under the “StackExchange” umbrella, in an attempt to beat Quora and the like at their own game. And are they ever screwing up. Their policy is to spin off new sites built around themes suggested and approved by their existing community. So what do you get as spinoffs from a coder community? A bunch of StackOverflow subsets for super users, sysadmins, etc., and a hodgepodge of sites focused on photography, mathematics, Apple, video games, board games, role-playing games, and science fiction. Interesting? Sure. Important? Hell, no.

StackOverflow’s killer value is that it’s where people go to solve the problems they’re having at work. That’s a feature that almost all of its spinoff sites completely lack. Having a high StackOverflow reputation is a definite plus, in the software world. I’ve seen it featured on resumes, and it influences hiring decisions. Coders are canaries in the coal mine; in the years to come, members of other fields too will increasingly value their online reputations. But who beyond a vanishingly small minority will care about your reputation on “Atheism”, “Board and Card Games,” or “English Language and Usage,” to pick three new StackExchange sites?

Joel and co. should do more than pander to the enthusiasms of their existing community by letting them vet new sites. That leaves them stranded on a social peninsula only tenuously connected to the rest of the world. Before Quora eats their lunch, they should also try to build Q&A communities – and reputations – focused on other professions: law, sales, etc. (And while they’re at it, they ought to clean up their very Web 1.0 UX, and let people log in with Twitter and Facebook (edit: Correction – they support Facebook logins already. Mea culpa), to make StackExchange reputations easily exportable to other platforms.) It won’t be easy to seed them and spin them up to critical mass, but it’ll be more than worth the pain, and miles better than what they’ve got now. StackExchange could be a real contender, but first they need to change their strategy.

1Full disclosure: Setlr was incubated by my sometime clients HappyFunCorp.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thinking Cap Sparks Creativity Via Electrical Current

Great stuff from Sydney Prof here... via PSFK

February 10, 2011

allan snyder-University of Australia-thinking cap-electrical current

Scientist Allan Snyder at Australia’s University of Sydney’s Center for the Mind has developed a ‘thinking cap’ that sparks creativity by passing low levels of electrical current to the right, creative half of the brain, while simultaneously suppressing neural activity in the left. Allan said the goal was to suppress habits and opinions gathered through life experiences to help users see problems and situations as they really appear. The device was inspired by accident victims who experienced a sudden surge in creativity after damaging the left half of their brains.

Simple math tests were administered to test the contraption. Out of a sample 60 participants, three times as many people who wore the cap were able to complete the tests.

University of Sydney’s Center for the Mind

[via The Sun

The Psychology of Facebook: Implications for Social Commerce

Nice post from Paul Mardsen via Social Commerce Today, on the why's of facebook usage

Thinking of using Facebook as a social commerce platform? Then it can help understand the social psychology of the Facebook user. Here are 7 evidence-based insights from recent psychology research into why we do what we do on Facebook (to learn more, check out Jeremy Dean’s wondrous PysBlog – an Aladdin’s Cave of practical insight)
  • It’s all about ‘Social Capital’, baby: Facebook is used to manage social capital – the power, privilege and possibilities we have by virtue of the social networks we are part of. Ellison et al. (2008) found that Facebook users had higher levels of ‘social capital’ – in other words more ‘friends with benefits’. Social Capital is a BIG concept in understanding social media – more in upcoming posts. How could social commerce help improve the social capital of Facebookers, whilst helping them shop smart with their social intelligence?
  • The Facebook 7s. Tap into one or more of the 7 core Facebook activities (‘uses and gratifications‘) identified by Joinson (2008). Note: connecting with or buying from brands and businesses is not one of them)
    1. Connecting (with People)
    2. Participating (Group Behaviour)
    3. Sharing (Media)
    4. Using (Apps)
    5. Updating (Status Updates Sharing/Learning)
    6. Surfing (People – Virtual People Watching)
    7. Investigating (People – Social Surveillance)
  • The Disinhibition Effect: Facebook disinhibits people – they say, share and do things they wouldn’t share, say or do in face-to-face situations. Nosko et al. (2010) found that young, single people were particularly likely to disclose sensitive information about themselves. How could you use the ‘disinhibition effect’ to build a revealing social commerce strategy (think blippy)
  • Beautiful People: Walther et al. (2008) found that attractive friends boosted the perceived attractiveness of participant’s profiles (unlike the contrast effect in real life). Boost the attractiveness of Facebookers by helping them mix with beautiful people.
  • The magic number of 150: People can manage relationships with 150 people – and Tong et al. (2008) found Facebooker’s social attractiveness peaked at around this number. Help people manage relationships.
  • Jealousy: Compulsive Facebook usage is a sign that your partner may be a jealous type (see social surveillance above): Muise et al. (2009) found that participants who spent more time on Facebook were more jealous of their partner. Opportunity to build apps that play on partner paranoia?
  • The Truth is Out There: Strangely, people tend to be honest about themselves on Facebook: Back et al., (2010) found that Facebook profiles generally reflected their owner’s actual rather than idealised selves. Harness honesty in social commerce.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Collective Vigilance

Great new start-up using crowd sourcing to find those nasty hidden surprises in your bills. I imagine it's quite a challenge for the team to get the platform set up and running, especially for international roll-outs across different banking systems, but some potential for real value-add to end users here.

Near field communications - the death of the password?

Bit slow off the mark with reposting this, but a nice article from Computer World about how near field communication (NFC) enabled devices, like the new Android Nexus (can't wait for them to be released here in OZ), could not only change things like credit cards and micro-payments, but also how we handle secure access to data and services.

How Apple and Google will kill the password

Prediction: Your phone is about to become a universal biometric ID and debit card

By Mike Elgan
January 29, 2011 07:55 AM ET

Computerworld -
Imagine sitting down at a public PC, surfing the Web, visiting Facebook, checking your online bank account and buying something on -- all without entering passwords or credit card information.

It gets better. You get up and leave without even logging out. Some shady criminal type sits down at the same PC and finds his attempts at cracking your password foiled at every turn. Your accounts can't be accessed because your phone is no longer on the desk.

It gets better still. Hop in your car and press the "Start" button -- no key necessary. The car knows it's you after you wave your phone over the dashboard, and it adjusts the driver's seat and steering wheel just for you.

On your way to work, you swing by Starbucks to grab a Trenta Iced Cafe Mocha with whip. To pay, you wave your phone over a terminal on the counter, grab your drink and head for work.

Arriving at the office, you sail past security with doors unlocking automatically as you approach them. When you walk into your office, the lights and PC come on auto-magically.

But what's this? While you were out, IT replaced your old-and-busted PC with the latest and greatest. The PC is a blank slate, and it's unaware of your data or settings. No worries. Just drop your phone on the desk, and the system instantly implements your settings and begins downloading your work documents from the cloud.

While all this is happening, a co-worker walks in talking smack about the game yesterday -- and the ill-advised bet you lost. You owe him $10, so you both pull out your phones. You launch an app, type in the number 10, and tap the phones together to transfer the money.

All this has taken place without a single password or credit card.

The magic happens when you can combine a biometric ID system (which uses some kind of scan from a smartphone to verify that you're actually in possession of the device) with a secure short-distance wireless communication technology that other devices (cash registers, PCs etc.) can read.

What's wrong with passwords?

Why do we need a new ID system? Because most users don't create secure passwords, and they can't always remember the ones they create.

On any public system -- like, say, Facebook -- if a hacker tries the 20 most common passwords on enough accounts, he'll eventually break in. Any two-bit suburban script-kiddie can download free software to crack the majority of passwords on a public system within hours.

Many people use a single password for all accounts. Once a hacker gains access to the password, he can wreak havoc, steal your identity, destroy your credit, ruin your relationships and expose your secrets.

Password protection -- or lack thereof -- is the IT industry's dirty little secret. Passwords are a broken and obsolete model, yet everyone relies on them and pretends they do what they're supposed to do.

The obvious password replacement is biometric identification -- the use of a system capable of recognizing unique physical attributes, such as fingerprints, iris patterns or voices.

Far too many people don't trust biometrics because it feels like Big Brother technology. But I believe that if the biometric system resides on the user's cell phone, and is under the user's control, such technology would be far more acceptable to the public.

How Apple will kill passwords

Apple doesn't discuss future product plans, but it appears likely that the company is aggressively pursuing the development of technologies that replace IDs, passwords and credit cards.

Two years ago, Apple was in the news for patenting a range of biometric ID tools for the iPhone, such as a voice recognition system, a retinal scanner that uses the phone's camera or, most likely, a system that uses the screen to scan fingerprints.

Last year, Apple hired an expert in Near Field Communication, or NFC, to head up the company's Mobile Commerce department. NFC is technology that enables the transfer of data over distances of just a few inches -- a model that's far more secure and reliable than, say, Bluetooth. Other inside sources have been quoted as saying that Apple plans to build NFC into the iPhone 5.

Apple has also recently advertised three job openings related to payment platforms and short-range wireless data transfers.

And Apple has been granted NFC-related patents.

Apple is in a unique position to add biometric ID and the short-range communication technology that would make it effective.

Because Apple makes both handheld devices and PCs, it could easily build support into both. And because Apple already maintains one of the largest e-commerce systems in the world -- the various iTunes stores -- it already has most of the infrastructure for payments in place -- and the credit card numbers of millions of customers.

Most important, however, Apple has proved to be the best company in the industry at taking research concepts that have been going nowhere for years and mainstreaming them overnight. It did that with multitouch user interfaces, cell phone videoconferencing and touch tablets. And it could do it with biometrically secured NFC ID and commerce systems.

In other words, all Apple needs to do in order to turn the iPhone into a universal debit card is to add a tiny, inexpensive chip to the device. And all Apple needs to do in order to make the iPhone a universal secure ID is to add a fingerprint scanner to the phone and put another chip in its various desktop systems.

Of course, it could be a while before you can use an iPhone as a universal debit card. It could take Apple some time to establish the partnerships and programs necessary to get every gas station and grocery store to support iTunes. But the password-killing ID card functionality could exist on Apple systems as early as this year, or most likely next year.

How Google will kill passwords

Google, meanwhile, does discuss (some) future plans. CEO Eric Schmidt announced late last year that Android Gingerbread 2.3 and later versions will support NFC at the software level. It's up to Google's hardware partners to build that functionality into Android devices.

Google is already using cell phones to improve security. The company has a universal password log-in that grants admission to most of its many online services, from Gmail to Google Latitude. Google encourages users to associate that single sign-on password with their cell phone number. If someone hacks your Google password, you can get a new password sent to your phone.

The Android platform has also been at the forefront of workable biometric solutions for cell phones. In fact, you can already download Android apps that do face recognition and iris scanning.

What doesn't exist yet is a Google-approved or Google-designed system that ties it all together -- NFC, payment and biometric ID. But with Apple apparently taking the lead when it comes to using a cell phone as a debit card and a universal ID, you can be sure Google will step up and do whatever is necessary to compete.

I believe that it will soon be possible to live without passwords or credit cards. If Apple builds in these capabilities, you can be sure Google will. And if Apple and Google do it, so will all of their competitors.

It won't be easy -- we can look forward to messy standards and privacy battles. But once they ship cell phones that can replace both passwords and credit cards, I think life will be more convenient -- and more secure.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slow start to 2011 - but not for facebook

Hi all and apologies for the hiatus in posting. End of the old year and start of the new have definitely provided more than a few distractions. In any case, back into it now and hoping to be able to provide more frequent Stickyness in 2011.

To get things rolling, here's a couple things that caught my eye this week:

Facebook is making big strides towards having its own economy. With Facebook Credits out of beta and set to become the mandatory currency for all social gaming purchases (Thanks Mashable:, and the recent announcement that Facebook is testing a Group Buying scheme using the credits as currency (, it certainty looks like the site is setting itself up for a transition into a more commercial environment, and one that it pulls all the levers in. Who's taking bets on Facebook Credits being listed as a tradeable currency within 2 years? I've got a case of red on it if there are any takers?

And, the New York times is thinking of creating its own version of Wikileaks (Thanks Cutline: The ironic nature of the relationship between Wikileaks, Assange and main stream outlets like the NYT aside, this is certainly an interesting development that might not bode well for Wikileaks in the long run, certainty feels like a good move for news. I'm just left wondering about how much we can trust the main stream outlets when it comes handling really explosive info.

Happy weekend