SALabs Social Search Project Graduates to Microsoft [SiliconANGLE Changes]


As you’ve probably noticed, there’ve been a lot of interesting changes around here at SiliconANGLE in the last couple of weeks. We try not to talk about ourselves too much here at the blog, but once in a while, enough radical changes take place over a short period of time that you need to mention it to someone. None of my inner circle seem to be online in IM at the moment, so you guys get the benefit of my excitement.

Of course, with excitement for us comes a bit of excitement for what is now a former member of the team.  Ho John Lee, SiliconANGLE member and one of the driving forces in our SALabs division has moved on, having his social search project snatched up by Microsoft.  More on that in a second.

The Changes You Can Clearly See
A week ago Thursday, we had a catastrophic failure with our installation of WordPress.  I tried to upgrade to the newest version of the CMS, and then went through to fix our plug-ins.  You may or may not remember, but we had a similar failure during the week of SxSW this year as well.  I, unfortunately, wasn’t around to help fix the site as I was off covering the event in Austin.

Not to impugn the work of Rex and John who tirelessly worked to get the site back online, but as neither one of them are dedicated system administrators, the site could best be described as being held together with baling wire and duct tape.

Which is why it came apart so easily when I did a simple plug-in upgrade.

Thankfully, this time around, the site came down on a holiday weekend.  I spent from Thursday to Monday rebuilding what you see here.  I’m still making little tweaks here and there, but more or less, what you’re seeing here is generally what we always wanted the site to look like.

Here’s what it has:

  • A powerhouse CMS: We’ve upgraded to WordPressMU.  This means we can power a suite of blogs.  We’ve set up supplemental blogs for each of our sponsors, and a few of our users have begun using our blogs to syndicate their personal blog posts. Keep an eye on the site as to what this means for you this week, as we’ll be going into further detail.
  • A full suite of social utility: We installed the plug-in suite of BuddyPress, and the add-on BBPress. This means we have fuller community features.  With almost 85+ contributors on the blog, we would like to bring them back, and their individual communities back to the site to collaborate on projects and ideas.  You can create groups and discussion areas within those groups, all with RSS feeds to easily export that discussion back to the communities and blogs of your choice.
  • A pretty design: Thanks to Elegant Themes, we’ve got a design that matches our branding and color scheme.  It’s also a very versatile theme that’s easy to manage.  I’ve not done much in the way of heavy theme modification or creation before, but due to great commenting and documentation, I’ve been able to heavily modify our theme to suit our needs.
  • Limited lifestreaming: One of our new SALabs projects, which we’ll be talking about over the course of the week, is a new take on lifestreaming and real-time web. The way we’ve set up our installation of the CMS allows us easy interfaces with Twitter, Friendfeed and other public timelines.

The Changes You Can’t Clearly See
image Part of why you haven’t seen these changes take place is because our site hasn’t been, up until now, equipped to display what’s going on in our research division.  Hopefully now that we’ve built out our community layers, that won’t be as much of a problem moving forward.

As many of you likely saw via our Twitter account this morning, Ho John Lee has graduated out of the SALabs incubator to work directly for Microsoft.

He’s been working on a project called SocialQuant, which is a “real time social search and analytics project.” He spoke in a bit more detail about it today at his blog:

The rise of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, combined with web-based applications, smartphones, and cloud computing have all set the stage for new applications and use models based on social discovery, collaboration, and communications, in addition to traditional search. What we’re all calling “real time search” lately isn’t exactly real time, nor is it exactly search, in which you find a definitive/authoritative answer. Much of the opportunity revolves around discovering people, discussions, and events that are relevant to you and bringing it to your attention in a timely, actionable fashion. Information streams from social media are transient, unreliable, and noisy. At the same time, the sheer volume of data can help provide the basis for building better filters. As an added bonus, you can ask questions to people in the social graph itself, and there are numerous examples of communities of interest forming around current events such as Barack Obama’s inauguration, the Iran elections, or even Michael Jackson’s funeral, all of which help surface information content, opinion, and sentiment that were previously inaccessible online. One interesting aspect of real time social media is that it’s not just algorithmic, it’s based on human connections and emotions. So a message  that “feels right” from people you trust can be more relevant than one that is “correct” at times.

The challenge then is in filtering and ranking the massive flow of information in a way that helps direct the user’s limited (and non-expanding) time and attention in a way that’s most valuable to them. With today’s information technology, amazing things are possible with limited resources. I personally have more computing and storage resources than the facility we launched HP’s original photo site with (for millions of dollars), at a fraction of the cost, routinely pushing around datasets of millions of rows on the local development servers. Unfortunately, that’s just the ante to get started on the problem. Running ranking, clustering, and semantic analysis for filtering the ever-growing stream of social media eventually requires web scale computing, even with careful problem selection and data pruning. The bar is also going up every day as the social media user base grows, and as well funded teams make progress on their platforms (+Google).  So very shortly, to be competitive in real time, social search and discovery is going to require access to lots of data and either getting a datacenter or working with someone who has one.

He will be joining the team on the Microsoft Bing project, bringing his project and expertise into the fold.

You can continue to follow his work via Twitter (@hjl) and at his posts here, when he’s good enough to grace us with his presence.


As one person departs, another joins us. If you have followed my work personally in the past at Mashable or elsewhere, you’ll recognize this name: Sean P. Aune.

Sean is joining our staff as of this week to help us boot up a new vertical of coverage in the mobile sector, focusing on mobile monetization.  He’ll primarily be doing weekly wrap-ups of what’s hot in the mobile device sector, with an eye on angles that app developers looking to monetize might find interesting or useful.

We’re also looking for more contributors to work with him, as he’ll be the section editor for all that falls under the the Mobile category button up on the top of the site. If you’re interested, sign up for an account here, and join the “Mobile” group.

No word yet if we’re going to kick up a new version of our video podcast (like we did with Mashable Conversations), though we’re certainly open to the idea, if a sponsor wants to step up.

That’s just a taste of the news to come.  John and I spent a few hours today taking stock of where we’ve come from and where we’re headed as an organization; we’ve come a long way, and we’re nowhere near done.

Want to get involved?  Jump in on the comments below and offer some suggestions. We’re always looking for sponsors, contributors and folks just interested in joining in the community and related discussion.