Here are a few of the data stories that caught my attention this week.
Your data and Google+
It’s hard to ignore the big story of the week: the launch of Google+, Google’s latest stab at social. Google+ is comprised of several pieces, namely Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Mobile, and Huddle — content and photo sharing, video chat, and mobile messaging. It’s an ambitious project to be sure, particularly — as most pundits are quick to point out — with Google’s less-than-stellar track record in the social space. The reviews a few days in seem mostly positive, with the observation all around that what Google needs to be successful here isn’t simply a good user experience, but, well, users.
The approach that Google has taken with Google+ purposefully differentiates it from other social networks, and the emphasis is on users’ control of their own personal information. Google describes those other networks as “sloppy,” “scary” and “insensitive.” Rather than utilizing the blunt instrument of “friend” or “follower” to describe all relationships, Google Circles allows users to classify them on a more granular level: not simply “friend” or “family” or “acquaintance,” but also self-created labels.
Google says this is part of its larger effort to give users better control of their own data (see video below). What remains to be seen is if that’s something most people are interested in, particularly if it means reassembling relationships and designing Circles on yet another social network.
Yahoo spins off its Hadoop division
Rumors have been circulating for some time that Yahoo was planning on spinning its Hadoop division into its own separate company, and this week Yahoo and Benchmark Capital announced the formation of Hortonworks to do just that. The news, first reported by GigaOm’s Derrick Harris, means that a small team of engineers from Yahoo will create a separate company to provide support and services for Hadoop users.
By incorporating next-generation features and capabilities, Hortonworks hopes to make Hadoop easier to consume and better suited for running production workloads. Its products, which likely will include higher-level management tools on top of the core MapReduce and file system layers, will be open source and Hortonworks will try to maintain a close working relationship with Apache. The goal is to make HortonWorks the go-to vendor for a production-ready Hadoop distribution and support, but also to advance Yahoo’s repeated mission of making the official Apache Hadoop distribution the place to go for core software. Earlier this year, Yahoo discontinued its own Hadoop distribution, recommitting all that code and all its development efforts to Apache.
Hortonworks, which takes its name from the elephant in Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who!”, will compete with others in the commercial Hadoop space, including Cloudera.
iPhone tracking: The book
The buzz has died down substantially from the iOS location news that Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan broke here on Radar earlier this year. But it’s not gone altogether. Such are the hopes of author James Bridle who has self-published his own personal mapping history in “Where the F**k Was I?“
The hardcover book costs $160, so I’m not too sure it’s destined to be a bestseller. But the idea is brilliant nonetheless. The book is 202 pages long, with a separate page for each day between June 2010 and April 2011. Each page is a map, with more than 35,000 of Bridle’s locations mapped via OpenStreetMap, along with a note about what he did that day.
As Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader points out:
He’s taken digital data that was created by spying on him and he’s converted it to an analog form. He’s also selling the data that Apple took for free — data that was recorded surreptitiously by one party, and now anyone can have it.
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