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RockMelt was introduced to me through word of mouth from a colleague at my agency. The message was simply put that I should check it out and from the link I was given, it seemed worth doing, after all it is designed for social media, sharing and keeping up with the gazillion updates from RSS feeds.

It is an amazing concept. Molding multiple elements into one browser. But first thing is first: What is it?

RockMelt is essentially a beefed up Google Chrome with nice bells and whistles. It supports awesome functions like drag and drop sharing to Facebook friends which are on your left-side bar, making it easier to share with the people you care about. One the right-side bar, there are the sites that you subscribe to and show how many updates are unread and give you a pop up notification for each notification. If you prefer to not get pop ups notification for each subscription, you can easily change it. Take a look at the differences:

I want to bring up a few things that I noticed at first about RockMelt, I want to mention that I have only had this for a couple of days so it would be fair to do a follow up post later on.

Sharing:

Pro: One can easily drag and drop text, links, photos on Facebook friends. You can also share pages via Facebook and Twitter.

Con: Limited to Facebook and Twitter sharing.

Recommendations: Allow the user to pick and choose which networks to share to (Digg, Stumble Upon, WordPress, email etc…)

Updates:

Pro: Organized and simple individual feeds from multiple sites that you subscribe to such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Websites. Also, if you are viewing a page that has an available RSS feed to subscribe to, it will notify you and you can quickly add it to your right-side bar.

Con: None so far. However, I should note that the user should experiment to get a feel for how you are updated, updates can be come very cluttered.

Recommendations: Maybe allow for groups or lists

Functionality:

Pro: I use Google Chrome as my main browser so it was an easy switch. It is easy to share and effortless to customize who I wanted on my Facebook bar (left-side bar) and what subscriptions I wanted (right-side bar).

Con: I have noticed there are a few minor bugs with the browser. I have had a few lock-ups but not sure if it was the browser’s fault or me over-experimenting with the functionality. Again, minor and not constant. Many new things are not flawless, a few minor bugs are acceptable. They will probably be fixed soon.

Recommendations: New features to merge with tools to adapt to the constant change of the web, BUT, give the user the ability to turn on/off features or customize which ones to use.

Practicality:

Pro: If you are a blogger, social media guru, journalist, or any profession in communication, this is very useful.

Con: If you are a student, this is very distracting, but you should have the maturity to avoid the distractions or turn them off if you are trying to type a 10,000 word thesis…

Recommendations: A practical browser is always a simple one. I recommended above with new features, but make sure they don’t clout the browser, unless you want to change your position on the “browser”.

Summary

RockMelt is in a good direction. With the development of the Semantic web, RockMelt saw this great opportunity and approached it beautifully. The next steps will be to keep up with the developments in technology. I have not looked at other browsers such as Flock or Fizzik, so I can not say which is better. What I can tell you is, the one that sets trend changes will be the best. Much like Clay Shirky said about “when we change the way we communicate, we change society”, if we change the way we surf the web, we change how we interact.

Take a look at RockMelt’s video demonstration

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Recently, I have been very interested in the subject of sociology and the effects and ethics of the internet, the web and social media. I have been thinking of many theories and writing notes and I have a very brief theory of the future of personal data aggregation.

Let me start off by saying Google does it brilliantly. Providing absolutely* free applications such as Google Docs, Mail, Calendar, Talk, Analytics and many more. With the addition of Android, the open source mobile operating system, they provide additional personality to their brand.

Yeah yeah yeah, about, the asterisk. By using Google, whether it be searching for something at http://www.Google.com  or using any of their apps, you give up your privacy for…. pretty much any content you provide to Google. Let me summarize by going over their privacy policy:

“When you sign up for a Google Account, we ask you for personal information. We may combine the information that you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.”

This includes: Cookies, Log information, User communications, Affiliated Google Services on other sites, Third-Party ApplicationsLocation data, Unique application number, Other sites. (all found from the privacy policy as it clearly states)

It makes sense, “to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.” We are given a number essentially and tracked. But the free stuff is so appealing! Many business of opted out of purchasing expensive programs such as Microsoft Office and just used Google Apps.

But here is my scenario that I play in my head over and over again:

Open my eyes. Look at the clock which personalized and recommended by a computer. This computer aggregated everything about me to distil a algorithm that can tell you everything about my personality, values, goals, beliefs etc…

I notice it is time to get ready for the day. Roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom to take a shower. Since a computer knows my preferences, it sets it at exactly 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit because 104.2 is too cold and 104.6 is too warm. After I shower, I brush my teeth and use a special mouth rise because I recently was told by my dentist that I have sensitive teeth and I should use Product X. He wrote down notes on a tablet pc about this and it automatically notified a server that I am in the market for Product X .

So at the last time I was at the market, I bought it because my phone noticed I was at the supermarket and notified me that I need to buy Product X for my sensitive teeth.

Proceeding my brushing and mouth rinse. I head for my car that was previously decided based upon my income and my preferences. It was chosen for me to buy because I would prefer to own a car sooner and opt out of buying an over-priced car. So a server went through every car made and found a car that I could pay off in 3 years and gives me the best value for my dollar. I prefer a fast yet practical car. This car was also chosen because I can afford $400 monthly payments and gives me the highest performance and value. $395/month would be less optimized and $405/month is out of my price range.

What happens when possible choices that are developed on our own, are challenged by recommended choices are created with data aggregated by databases? We lose the power to decide our own fate and choosing against the recommended choices simply to make us feel we have power over our lives no longer applies because we are not ‘optimized’ to produce the best life.

To get a better idea of what I am talking about, read this Business Week article published in 2007. The author, Rob Hof, talks a lot about how Google is working to become a working A.I. search engine. He takes my idea and illustrates it quite well and examines other players such as Amazon.

The short version is: I love technology and how it allows us to be  more efficient and make better decisions. However, there needs to be a line. It is a massive trade off: completely remove humanity and thinking all together but have the most optimal life made for us.

Once this computer knows everything about me, making choices are pointless because the decision is already made by the computer.

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