12 October 2012 - 10:17Stickers for your online presense?

After suggesting an idea of how Firefox could help users share their interests online [blog.mozilla.org], I’ve been wondering if it’s similar to something people already do outside of a browser. I gave it some quick thoughts, and stickers seem like they might be a suitable comparison in that they’re something people can easily acquire and customize and then present to others without giving them away.

Showing things you like on something you own

People seem to have all sorts of stickers placed on things they carry around, e.g., laptops, binders, or notepads; or a mode of transportation, e.g., cars, skateboards, or bikes. Even though showing something could be thought as a statement, I would guess that people aren’t necessarily always looking to have a conversation by displaying their sticker. They’re just happy to show off something they support or care about.

This note about having a presence without actively socializing seems to overlap in some way to the “Visitors” group from a study on Identity and the Internet [blog.mozilla.org]. Not everyone wants to be social on the internet and actively produce content, so using these stickers to show off one’s interests seems like a comfortable step from being completely without an online identity.

Do you use stickers? If so, what are you showing, where are you placing them, and why do you use them? I’m curious! :)

3 Comments | Tags: Development, Labs, Mozilla

5 October 2012 - 10:56about:profile – interest categories vs demographics

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been checking out my about:profile page [addons.mozilla.org], and I’ve been pretty surprised at how accurate it can get even though it’s a simple proof of concept to initiate discussions on how Mozilla should be analyzing data in the Firefox [blog.mozilla.org].

Overall categorization and detailed/recent interests

It shares some ideas with what Margaret implemented for about:me [wiki.mozilla.org] such as processing the local data within Firefox and not sending data out of Firefox, except in about:profile, we’re trying to generate higher-level concepts such as an interest category as opposed to statistics of your browser behavior. We happened to go with some readily available domain data of ODP categories and Alexa siteinfo, and we selected some hundreds of top sites to package into the add-on. So while the reference data is not an exhaustive list, it seems to work for quite a few people I’ve shown the add-on to.

Our somewhat arbitrary choices of category interests and site demographics got me thinking about what we could do with this data in Firefox, and I seem to keep coming back to this distinction of category data actually shows what I’m interested in whereas demographics appears to create a label/characteristic that opens things up to preconceived judgements. I suppose in other words, the former is based on something I did vs the latter is something I am. (Although technically, the about:profile experiment is trying to guess at who you are based on what you did.)

I’m sure others will be able to better describe the differences between the two, but I wonder if because there appears to be a fundamental difference, we should go about presenting the data differently to the user. For example, perhaps users will be happy to explicitly give Firefox one’s demographic data whereas trying to have the user create a list of interested categories might be overwhelming.

I’m excited that we’ve released the add-on to get a conversation started because there’s so many different ways to analyze the data in Firefox, and each method can lead to interesting discussions such as this one about categories vs demographics.

No Comments | Tags: Add-on, Development, Labs, Mozilla

21 December 2010 - 11:20#status 2010-12-20

- Brainstorm next Prospector experiments

At the Mozilla All Hands last week, and we held a discussion to brainstorm various ideas to try out in the Prospector family of experiments. A couple of the current experiments like Speak Words and Instant Preview help users get back to top sites almost instantly with just one key stroke, but these mainly help for the relatively small set of sites that users frequent and not so much the remainder of the history available in Firefox.

So the next set of experiments will focus on improving the experience of searching for pages in Firefox. Interesting findings from Query Stats could help identify relevant pages or help build a better view of your past browsing behavior. Additional data about each page could be tracked by Firefox such as unique phrases from the page or how long a tab was opened and interacted with.

Displaying the search results also received some attention as to how to add all this extra information in a clean way. Some ideas ranged from being more space efficient by showing location bar results on one line to taking up more vertical space as one might not need to use the page when searching. This led to ideas of using the whole tab content area to show rich results and provide interaction such as grouping/switching of types of results like pages, apps, videos, etc.

- Prepare search bar -> button demo

Along the lines of combining the location bar and the search bar, I’ve been hacking together a Prospector experiment that changes the search bar into a list of buttons. This allows for explicit control for the user to decide when searching should be local to Firefox’s history or over the web. It also makes it apparent that there are multiple search engines to choose from and clicking another button switches the current search request to another provider.

When clicking a button, it inserts a keyword and focuses the location bar, so it’s like doing a smart bookmark keyword search with the first location bar suggestion being the search. Combined with Instant Preview, it’ll automatically update the results immediately as you type more words or switch engines.

- Attend Open Web App discussions

I was curious what kind of web-apps were being created in general across the various web-app stores available today because I wanted to see if the search bar -> button experiment above could add to the types of available apps. This is because generally speaking, these search buttons processes some words from the user and converts it to a url or a set of results.

From the screenshot above, the last button is actually for Google Translate, so when I click the button and type “hola mis amigos”, Google translates it immediately as I type to “hello my friends“. This somewhat feels Ubiquity-like, which had all sorts of commands, so potentially allowing the web app manifest to describe these “searches” or “actions” could lead to web-apps that are more than just bookmarks.

- Push restartless code examples to GitHub

I’ve been hacking on restartless add-ons for a while now and noticed that I copy/paste some useful helper functions for when I start a new add-on. Other people hacking on these bootstrapped add-ons could make use of them as well, so I created a “restartless” repository on GitHub. I’ll write a post going into more detail later, but briefly, it’s a collection of git branches where each branch contains a helper function or provides an example usage or pattern.

- Tracking down flash crashes

I’ve been running into Flash crashes on OS X for a while and noticed other people were in a similar situation. So to help resolve it, I started tracking down the various flash crash reports, and I’ve posted about my findings and issues that I ran into.

6 Comments | Tags: Add-on, Conference, Development, Labs, Mozilla, Search, Status

30 September 2010 - 15:29Instant Preview of Location Bar Suggestions

I’ve received a number of requests for getting Instant-like Search, so I’ve packaged it up for people to download. Part of the reason why I didn’t release earlier is that this restartless add-on requires the upcoming Firefox 4 Beta 7, so I was hoping to make it available when the beta was ready.

If you’re already on the bleeding edge running a Firefox nightly build [nightly.mozilla.org], you can install Instant Preview.

With this add-on, Firefox will start loading pages highlighted in the location bar suggestions in place of the current tab. This means you can type a letter and press Down to start viewing that page. From there you can press Return to make the preview turn into a persistent tab. Alternatively, you can press Esc to get rid of the preview if you just needed to glance at the page. So if you do end up selecting the page, it might already be done loading and ready for you to use! :)

This works even better if you install Speak Words, so that when you type a single letter, not only will the rest of the word get filled in, it’ll automatically highlight the first entry resulting in the page being loaded immediately. For now you’ll need to install both these restartless add-ons separately, but I’m working on a way to simplify this so you just need to install one to automatically get these new features.

Don’t forget to check out my Video Preview of Instant-like Search and install it!

23 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Labs, Mozilla, Search