Six degrees of separation

I stumbled upon this fascinating research done by Microsoft Research about a year ago (disclaimer: I work for Microsoft) after Mashable picked it up this weekend.

“We present a study of anonymized data capturing a month of high-level communication activities within the whole of the Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging system. We examine characteristics and patterns that emerge from the collective dynamics of large numbers of people, rather than the actions and characteristics of individuals. The dataset contains summary properties of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people.”

“All our data was anonymized; we had no access to personally identifiable information. Also, we had no access to text of the messages exchanged or any other information that could be used to uniquely identify users.”

And while these are only MSN/Live Messenger users during a period in time in 2006, and miss data from the competitive services, it still gives a pretty solid idea of the ‘inside’ of the social aspect of an IM network. Here are some of the key findings.

When you compare the world population to the Messenger population you will see that ages 18-30 are over represented, and ages 10-14 and 30-34 are fairly comparative to the world population. This tells me that IM is indeed linked mostly to youth, but definitely not youth alone.

MessengerPopulation

This here is another interesting finding:

“We investigate on a planetary-scale the oft-cited report that people are separated by “six degrees of separation” and find that the average path length among Messenger users is 6.6. We also find that people tend to communicate more with each other when they have similar age, language, and location, and that cross-gender conversations are both more frequent and of longer duration than conversations with the same gender.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

MIX08 (Part 2)

The key session of day 2 at MIX was without a doubt the Q&A between Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer. You’ll have to watch it and see for yourself what you think of this, but I found it a quite unique experience (and I think many did with me). Can you think of any other CEO of a company such as Microsoft to do a keynote this way?

Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer during MIX08 keynote

During the rest of the day, before and after the keynote, I focused mainly on sessions that talked about web2.0, social networking and mobile. Here are some videos worth watching of these sessions:

Sessions I missed but are worth checking out as well on video are:

There are a ton of sessions I still have to go through, all of them are up on http://sessions.visitmix.com/ for your viewing as well (requires Silverlight plugin).

That evening we joined the European MIX08 guests at the European party in Club 40/40 together with David Armano and his wife. The party was good fun and some magic but no pictures to share from this one… what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas I guess ;)

MIX08 (Part 1)

There’s always one difficult part about going to conferences and blogging and that is that you hear so many interesting things you want to talk about, but no time to do so because you’re paying attention. I do have some time right now though before going to the official MIX party at TAO in about an hour or so I thought I’d share some first thoughts on the conference.

Together with most of the European invites of Microsoft to MIX, we arrived in Vegas on Monday night as we had a pre-conference scheduled in on Tuesday, the day before the official start of MIX. The pre-conference is a unique opportunity to get up close with some people that will present at MIX later as well but given we’re with about 200 people it makes it more accessible to get into a conversation. In the afternoon we had the choice between some activities, for which we chose to go for the “High Rollers” – a training basically on gambling, to get you started ;) This training took place in the Stratosphere Tower, a nice enough opportunity to take some pictures and stitch them all together in this panorama.

Las Vegas Panorama

Today MIX officially started. We had the keynote in the morning with Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie which got covered pretty good live by Duncan Riley at Techrunch. I’d say check out their post to get an idea of the keynote, or watch the video. There’s one thing that struck me the most and that was the Hard Rock Memorabilia demo, using the Seadragon technology within Silverlight. You can see it right here, make sure you check it out. Really cool, trust me.

hardrock

After the keynote (and the following lunch) I went out to see Lou Carbone again. I saw him at MIX07 already and found it a fascinating speech, reason enough to go see him again. Unfortunately, his MIX08 speech was the same as last year. Still very good, but been there done that.  Too late to go anywhere else so and my next session was in the same room anyway. Next up, David Armano with the Fuzzy Tail. David and I have been in touch occasionally through the AoC and on Twitter but here in Vegas we finally met in person which was good. The Fuzzy Tail wasn’t new to me as I followed the development of the presentation on his blog a couple of months ago, still good to see it presented by the man himself.

Other than that we saw some cool stuff related to the new IE8, we had again some demo on the Surface – always fascinating – and finally we joined the other MIX attendees for the official MIX party in TAO.

I know that guy

More images from MIX can be found on my Flickr account, and for more news and videos you should check out the MIX website.

My mobile life

Sometimes I think I live on mobile. If there’s a device I really couldn’t miss it’s my mobile phone. Ask my wife, if on occasion I don’t take my mobile phone with me, she’ll wonder how it’s possible I forgot it. It’s just too odd for me to be without. According to my mom, it’ll grow on my ears one day. Whatever ;)

Anyway, it’s true that mobile is important for me, ever since I got my first mobile phone some 10 years ago. Every year I hope that mobile will really breakthrough, but unfortunately also this year won’t be the year of mobile, just like 2007, 2006 nor 2005 were the year of mobile. It’s that one prediction that I wish it were through, but you know it won’t be.

It’s not even in our hands. I think the devices are there, thinking of the N95, the iPhone and some Windows Mobile devices that are all capable of doing amazing things for such a small device. The iPhone has the interface to love, my HTC is less slick but comes with 3G, built in GPS and all the power of Office and Exchange on mobile. Or the N95 with it’s superb camera. And now I’m not mentioning a ton of other great features these phones have.

Apart from all that greatness, I’ve been a very active user of the mobile web for the last 6 years or so as well. First on WAP on my old Nokia 6310i for instance, later on Vodafone Live with a Sharp GX30. Back then I was still working on Kinepolis‘ new media strategy and we invested in this back then already. Today Kinepolis is still one of the very few Belgian companies with a decent mobile site, for which you got to give them credit. But even outside Belgium, there aren’t many mobile specific sites, which already resulted in a shout-out more than a year ago.

The mobile sites I currently use are: BBC, Bloglines, Gmail, Hotmail, Messenger, Dopplr, Facebook, Google Reader, Live Search, Kinepolis, MSN, Twitter, Technorati, Wapedia, Flickr, Yahoo and WordPress. I don’t really know many more that are of use to me, or that aren’t in a walled garden like Vodafone Live.

I also use client versions like Live Messenger (which you can download for all kinds of devices), the Live Search client as well as the Google Maps client, Yahoo!Go, … as well as apps that run in the Java environment on mobile like Gmail and Opera Mini. On the N95 I also tried the Widsets, but whatever the phone, the browse services still top them all.

Today, with the iPhone’s browsing capabilities, or other mobile browsers that enable better viewing of ‘normal websites’ on mobile we will probably skip the further development of mobile specific sites. With Skyfire for instance (see announcement) or Deepfish I expect to see more ‘regular’ browsing in the future.

Still, the problem remains, now even more than ever I guess. We will have access to every site we want, with great browsers but at what cost? There’s a good explanation why I use so much mobile: I can use it obviously but more important is that I don’t have to pay for it. The day I have to pay for it, I’ll cut back for sure, need or no need. How much I love the Wifi on these phones, that’s not truly mobile for me. It’s when in a taxi, or before checking in a plane, while waiting on someone, … that I love to use all my catching up. Not only in my sofa at home for instance.

So unless operators change their models on data costs, mobile will never really breakthrough and that’s sad. And yes you can discuss devices etc aren’t ready yet either, allow me to say they’re well ahead of the game when you compare them to operator attitudes. And I’m afraid they won’t change that soon either. There’s too much money to be made with TXT messages to allow you to use IM on mobile instead for instance. What’s your take?

PS: Also check out the upcoming FF for Mobile now we’re at it ;)

PPS: And Twitter, for god’s sake, at least add a replies tab to m.twitter.com will ya!

 

I want this

Just about a year ago I wrote a post about the Samsung Blackjack. I saw it first up on Crunchgear and it looked “like the perfect answer to what I want” as I mentioned back then. A couple of months later I received one at MIX07 in Vegas and I’ve been using the Blackjack until about a month ago. I think it’s the best phone I ever had, but there were a few good reasons for switching to something else again. The Blackjack was an unlocked Cingular mobile, and although it was a 3G phone it didn’t work on the European 3G networks. It also didn’t have WIFI and it’s a Windows Mobile 5 phone whereas I need WM6 for some of the demos I do on mobile. That said, I miss the darn phone.

Today I run around with a HTC TyTNII, which is a pretty powerful mobile phone… but it’s a brick. And battery life is pathetic. Especially that last point is a bit of a dilemma. The phone has great capabilities to get work done while on the road (and I’m on the road quite a lot) so doing email, reading RSS feeds, surfing the web, checking word and powerpoint docs, … the TyTNII is quite good at it…. for a few hours. If you use your phone actively for all this it doesn’t survive the day. And that’s bad. During the weekends I mostly use my Nokia N95. I got lucky to get one from Nokia so I could use it to demo the Windows Live for Nokia and I’m especially astonished by the photo/video quality of the phone. I’m having way too much fun filming the kids having fun during the weekend. I could use it for work as well as I can use it with Exchange but I don’t like the whole emailing feature on the Nokia.

And then I saw this, the Samsung i780 or the next generation Blackjack. And I want it. It’s like my original Blackjack with all the functions I had to miss and adding even some more. So Samsung, you can send one my way right now ;)

newblackjack2.jpg

One thing you can learn from the latest HTC models though, they do a very good job on the home screen (quite a bit better than what is shown here).

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Birds Eye in 3D

I’m planning on doing a longer review of some of the recent updates on Live Search, Windows Live Spaces and a few other services but this was something that I didn’t want to hold back until then. This video shows a new feature in Live Maps that combines the 3D view with the Birds Eye view. Both were available for a whole range of cities (unfortunately not a lot of 3D for Europe) but also I was wondering how these 2 would combine in 1 view. The video does a great job bringing that to live though, check it out:

I think this looks really great. Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft.

[Via LiveSide

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Windows Live for Nokia

Related to the press release of tonight (it was announced at 1AM my time) I wanted to post some more pictures of the Windows Live Client for Nokia but unfortunately my internet connection died right after I posted the ‘Microsoft and Nokia join forces‘ post. Read that first in case you missed that.

Anyway, here are the pictures that I wanted to show you as well:

nokiamobile      nokiamobile2      nokiamobile3

You can see your online/offline Messenger buddy list, a chat conversation (and some other ones open in the tabs as well) and your contact list. More images can be found here.

Nokia & Microsoft join forces!

I think this is some very exciting news for both Nokia and Microsoft, more specifically for Windows Live. From the press release:

“Starting today Nokia customers in eleven countries with compatible S60 devices can download the new suite enabling access to Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Contacts and Windows Live Spaces. Starting next year, customers who purchase compatible Nokia Series 40 handsets will also have access to these popular Windows Live services.”

Here are some screens of the application:

\NOKIA\AALTO\Jun192006_170102_000040.cr2<br /> CaptureSN: 302089.046990<br /> Software: Capture One PRO for Windows<br /> \NOKIA\AALTO\Jun192006_170102_000040.cr2<br /> CaptureSN: 302089.046990<br /> Software: Capture One PRO for Windows<br /> \NOKIA\AALTO\Jun192006_170102_000040.cr2<br /> CaptureSN: 302089.046990<br /> Software: Capture One PRO for Windows<br />

Not only will Nokia add new devices that will get access to these services, more countries will be launching over time as well. For more information on which devices exactly as which 11 countries are included in this release:

“Nokia customers who own the Nokia N73, N80 Internet Edition, N95, N76 and the N93i can get the Windows Live services via the Download! application in the following countries; Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, UK , Sweden, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Customers can visit http://www.nokia.com/windowslive to learn more, and check if their country is on the availability list. Initially the service will be available as a free trail and then customers in select markets wishing to continue using the service may be asked to pay a monthly fee”

I’ve played a little with the Windows Live client on the Nokia and it’s a very nice experience. Especially the Live Messenger part is a very rich application that allows multiple chats, voice clips (very handy on mobile) and instant photo sharing over IM. And it’s nice to remember that you could already get Live Search on your Nokia for a while.

More information about all this on Phil Holden’s blog.

(disclaimer: I work for Windows Live)

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New from Microsoft: Tafiti

Today Microsoft launched Tafiti, a new demo/experiment showing in a cool way what you can do combining Live Search with Silverlight. I hear you thinking: not another search, or Microsoft, huh!, … but I think you should take a look at it.

Tafiti, which means ‘do research’ in Swahili apparently, allows you to search the web like any other engine when it comes to the results themselves. But the way these results get presented and the way you can drag into ‘shelves’ where you can collect them is quite interesting.

tafitibeta2

I did a search on ‘silverlight’ and the view on top is where you see the news results of it, nicely presented in ‘newspaper’ style. In the carrousel on the left you can choose other verticals (web, images, …) and on the right you have the ‘shelves’ I mentioned earlier with some results stored on the first ‘shelve’. You can actually open up the results on a ‘shelve’ which shows all of them in one view and which has a blog it & email it buttons so you can send them through right away.

I’m going to play around with this a bit more myself, but make sure you do as well. I think it’s an interesting exercise. You can see a video of Tafiti in action at On10.