Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gift registries, groups, and partial payments

I recently made an online purchase for a friend's gift registry on and was left wondering about the room for innovation in this space. Although I purchased the gift, but I really wanted to contribute money towards a more expensive item in the gift registry because it is something that my friend will really like. However, the item was too expensive for a single purchase. Unfortunately, there do not seems to be a way to partially pay (or contribute) towards the price of a more expensive gift on Amazon's gift registries. The old fashioned way of doing it is by giving cash as a gift. The online registry creator can also select gift cards of different values which people can purchase. Then there are cash registries where people can 'gift' money for a baby's college fund or honey moon fund, which is just another play on the gift idea cards or vice versa.

But can we do better? Can we leverage the idea of groups, crowd sourcing, and partial payments to innovate in gift registries?

What if there was a Groupon-like way to keep track of partial payments towards gifts? For example, the creator of gift registry can set a limit like, 'if 50% of the costs for a gift are paid by my friends, I will purchase the item'. The person purchasing the gift can have the option of purchasing the gift, contributing towards partial payment of a gift, or simply paying cash. The purchaser can limit the use of cash, i.e., use it only towards gifts etc.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Link plagiarism, Google+, and Facebook

Have you ever seen the link posted by you being re-posted by one of your friends without a 'via', as-if indicating that they were the first to found the link? I call this link plagiarism. Basically, you see a link posted by your friend, and you repost it on your profile without any attribution. Admittedly, I may also be guilty of this -:)

Now, Facebook groups together the same link being posted by your friends and also shows the time they were posted. So you can easily track when did the story broke among your friends and who was the first to report it. I want Google+ to have the same ability. It will be cool to develop a tool that scans one's friends profiles and see who is the habitual plagiarist :)

Friend Recommendation in Google+

When I clicked on 'Find and Invite' in Google+, the results recommended me Larry Page and Sergey Brin among the people I know. Interestingly, the page recommended Larry ahead of Sergey by seven people. (The number of people between Larry and Sergey was higher initially, but it decreased to seven by the time I was writing this post as I added some people as 'Friends'). Obviously, I was intrigued! I have never met any of them before. Moreover, Facebook has never recommended Mark Zuckerberg as a friend to me. So what is going on?

On a bit of digging, I found that one of my Google+ friends has them in their friend's list. So that explains why Google+ is recommending them as the people I know. But why would it rank Larry ahead of Sergey for me? -:) May be, because at this time, there are approximately 12,000 people who have Larry in their circles, but only ~9,000 people who have Sergey in their circles. Surely, Larry is more popular than Sergey :)

But does Google+ only recommends people to me who are friends with my existing friends? The answer is no. Not surprisingly, it seems to use multiple strategies. One strategy is obviously, 'Friends of Friends' for recommendation. That seems to be the easiest approach. The other strategy seems to be a 'Gmail scan'. Without scanning my Gmail, it will never have recommended me people who are not even on Google+. This is an interesting strategy because there are several options on how to implement it. One option is that Google+ scans my inbox for conversations. That is the easiest option. The other option is to scan my inbox for emails from people that are on the same listserv as I am. Finally, the third strategy seems to be a bit of mystery. I will call this the 'Other' strategy. Google+ recommended me people that are not 'Friends of Friends', and with whom I have not exchanged an email and I think that we are not in the same listserv.