Michael Abrash @ F8 and Quick Thoughts on VR

To me it’s quite remarkable that Michael Abrash and John Carmack have been reunited at Oculus and now at Facebook. They drove much of the innovation in first person 3D games while at id Software, with games such as Doom and Quake.

I remember in the mid to late 90s that there was a whole community that wanted them to work on VR and multi-player worlds, and it just strikes that it’s a near perfect hollywood script that they would end up together again ushering in this next wave of VR.

I’ve personally been interested in VR, starting with VRML (pronounced “vermal” – and maybe the worst pronounced acronym ever), the HTML of VR – and been super excited to watch Oculus and other entrants make their debut.

When people ask me why I’m excited about VR, the way I answer it is the following: The first time I tried the Oculus it was like using a TI/99 (or Apple IIe) for the first time. In that it wasn’t perfect, and had some very clunky aspects to it, but you could instantly imagine what version 5 or 6 would be like, and how mind blowing it would be. As importantly, Oculus was the first VR device that convincingly “tricked my mind” into accepting that what I was seeing was “real”. When I did a racing demo, I tried to crash into a wall, and as hard as I tired, I couldn’t help but flinch and really felt a visceral reaction. It’s hard to explain, but I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it yet to find a demo, or even better yet, head to a local VR meetup to see a whole bunch of demos and meet the people who are working on this cutting edge stuff.

Last week Abrash gave a talk at F8 on Virtual Reality, and I think it’s a must-watch to understand just why this time around VR might become a very big deal:

Thoughts on Making Content Sharing Better

The idea of a Twitter RT (Retweet) or sharing a blog post to Facebook is something so common today, that you don’t really need to explain to people why and when they should do it — it’s pretty natural. But is it as effective as it could be ?

I’ve been thinking about that and where all this sharing behavior is heading to as part of the big Social Media Week that’s happening in San Francisco right now.

The challenge I see with today’s sharing model falls into four buckets:

Who do you share with? Most services are geared to sharing with your entire network, or require constant maintenance of groups/circles to keep things organized. I know personally that when I share certain WordPress/Automattic stuff I wish I could specify who sees it.

Proliferation of sharing buttons on sites makes for a confusing user experience. Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Path, LinkedIn, and the list goes on. How do you decide where to share, and how do you know you won’t need to recall your password and jump through several hoops to even make the sharing possible?

Noise & data overload. Facebook and likely others soon, are empowering passive sharing through the Timeline and other features — so that what you are listening to right now on Spotify is automatically shared.  I don’t think that scales, and at least right now — it missed the whole idea of having a filter.

When to share? Are you RT’ing something from a day ago and it will be old news already ?  How do you know your friends don’t already have this info ?

So my question is how do we make it better?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do see a few smart companies that are tackling these various challenges and making good progress. A few key ones are highlighted below:

Smaller networks.  If Facebook and Linkedin encourage you to grow your network to 5,000+ people, why not constrain the size of the network to up the quality ?  That’s exactly what Path is doing with a cap of 150 people (up from the original 50) — and the feedback from my friends who use it is consistently “easy to do stuff in Path because I know exactly who is in my network”. What’s interesting is that by constraining the size of the network, you can achieve a higher signal to noise ratio — but also likely get people to share who would normally not do so on the larger social networks.

Recommend who to share with. ContextLogic, is tackling this space with their ENGAGE product by personalizing the recommendations of who specifically in your network to share with. They are able to do this by interpreting the visitor’s social graph and pin pointing exactly that visitor’s 7 friends who would love to read that story about the new Tesla Model X SUV. A bunch of large publishers are using them now and seeing great results.(disclosure: I’m an Advisor)

Optimize when and what to share. On the publisher side of things, SociaFlow is making a huge difference. Their tools help publishers optimize when to share on Facebook and Twiiter, and also what to share. If something big is buzzing, such as the untimely death of Whitney Houston the other day, SociaFlow can alert a publisher to a piece of content from their archive that is now worth pushing out to their audience.

Should be an interesting year for all these companies, and I see a larger context of human curation VS algorithms playing out in this space. My personal take is that machine smarts can get us 90% of the way, and then the remaining 10% is the human element leveraging the efficiencies of the algorithms to empower us to do things of higher quality. The goal should be less noise, better “aha” moments, and ultimately more time to spend off-line in the real world – not trying to consume 1000 data feeds from various networks.

Where I’ve Been Facebook app jumped into my newsfeed

The Where I’ve Been Facebook application is a pretty cool app. I installed it a while back and haven’t really updated it in a while, but I’m a fan of seeing data visually displayed in a smart way — and this app definitely does that.

What I was surprised to see today when I logged into facebook was that my feed/profile had an update from that app:
where i’ve been facebook app

It states “Raanan just started using the new version of Where I’ve Been. Raanan has a shiny new Where I’ve Been map. View his map or create your own.”

What’s odd is that to the best of my knowledge I hadn’t clicked on any updates, hadn’t used the app in while, and never gave permission for this type of ‘spam update’. I looked through the various settings of the app but could not find any option to turn off this type of messaging in the future.

WordPress.com Facebook App

Joseph Scott just posted on WordPress.com that the new facebook app is ready to go.

Blogs are one of the ways the Internet has fostered greater communication among people than ever before. Social network sites like Facebook provide a more structured way to keep up with specific people. Wouldn’t it be great if you could mix the two?

With the new WordPress.com Facebook App you can do exactly that.

Definitely go check it out.