The slow decay of personal aggregators

The beginning of this decade witnessed the Mass Customization trend, of which are prime examples TV shows like Pimp My Ride or marketing campaigns such as Zune Originals, thus trying to embed personal beliefs into mass consumption goods and services.

On the web, this trend was assimilated by popular websites like MySpace or Yahoo allowing customized homepages where registered users could setup their own layouts and snack-sized information blocks. On MySpace, this feature reflected a desire for self expression, even if the features and technology were rather limited. The liberal customization eventually caused the downfall of MySpace’s popularity, a rococo of visual design and high signal/noise ratio not very friendly to ensure loyalty amongst visitors and seduce newcomers to the service.

Personal aggregators become popular around 2005 with the launch of Netvibes, later followed by iGoogle, structured around the key concepts of data syndication and widgets. Similar models emerged such as PopURLs, which led do Guy Kawasaki’s internet newstand, that act more as filters than customizable services.

From 2008 on, with the growth of lifestreaming services (Friendfeed, Twitter and Facebook), social profiles become themselves information filters, both personal (social recommendation) and public (e.g. CNN’s @breakingnews), with users shifting their media consumption habits to where their friends were.
Personal aggregators at the time had almost no social features, targeted for a tech savvy audience, who used them as a start page but choosing to read information on Google Reader or dedicated apps and services (caveat: this is mostly anedoctal evidence gathered from my circle of friends and some web analytics data, being my blog one of the default subscriptions on Netvibes for portuguese users).

Referrals from Netvibes to this blog

Google trends for Netvibes, PageFlakes and PopURLs

With the launch of OpenSocial and skins, iGoogle tried to innovate, but this space reached maturity, and as with most technologies, we’re now witnessing the decay. Users started to choose a different kind of aggregation and knowledge management services, based on different platforms such as Tweetdeck (desktop) or Instapaper (mobile). Social filtering also kicks in with web services like Digg, Reddit or the more recent

If things look harsh for personal aggregators, it doesn’t help that RSS subscription isn’t in a good shape either, not being understood/used by the early and late majority. It should suffice as evidence the shutdown of one of the most popular subscription services, Bloglines. Information consumption shifted from push to pull, and we’re in the real time age.

The biggest challenge facing personal aggregators is to limit themselves to a classic customization and not a true, valuable personalization: focusing on the superficial (colors, layout, widgets) and not the essntial (information filtering, personal recommendation). While customization is easy to achieve with current technology (cookies, personal settings), personalization is a whole different game. Some notable exceptions come from Google: Priority Inbox on Gmail or “More blogs like this” on Google Reader are only possible thanks to network effects, by aggregating behaviors of millions of consumers and learning from daily habits.

Photo by Jinho Jung, under a CC license

The way i see it, for personal aggregators to survive, they need to evolve from classic Lego to Mindstorms.

Refreshing A Source Of Inspiration

It’s been a while. The holidays were great, with lots of time away from the computer, just checking email and some occasional Twitterring. I even started pondering about the future of this blog, but not in a blogger fatigue kind of way.

One thing lead to another and a redesign was born. The “Fresh Grid” theme is less cluttered, with no rounded corner clichés. The focus is now on the content (expect more in-depth in articles), with lots of white space and serif fonts for enjoyable reading (and printing). The homepage was trimmed to only display the latest post and a featured Site and Video of the Week.

Oh, and of course, if you haven’t noticed my avatars this previous week, there’s also a new logo (above), more appropriate to “A Source Of Inspiration”. Enough of the Web2.0 look.

The new Lifestream page

There’s a lot more focus on social media, with a Twitter sidebar and a new Lifestream page, with a quick overview of what’s inspiring me in several web services. That also means the huge blogroll footer is now history, with featured websites getting a one week homepage promotion. So it’s a great chance to send your websites/campaigns/portfolios and have them showcased.

And while changing this whole thing, there’s also an updates RSS feed at The previous one should still work, but with the whole Feedburner transition to Google came just in time to include in the redesign.

No technical hiccups are expected with this redesign, but i’d love to hear your thoughts about the new A Source Of Inspiration.. Hope you like it.

A decade of your work

Patrick at Creative review shared his thoughts on how the last decade has affected our professional life, and most of it i deeply relate to, specially on how the Internet has changed the life of people that work in design, and to a broader extent, the whole society (at least in developed countries).

Photo by Eole, under a Creative Commons License

Ten years ago i was leaving university, thinking on how i would get along with Business Management, but having fun with Flash 4 on my spare time, while hanging around in IRC and building personal webpages on HotDog HTML editor. At that time, i didn’t even knew there was a job for a digital marketeer much less in advertising.

A few career changes later and past the dot com bubble, i find myself in a place i wouldn’t have dreamed of 10 years ago. The last 5 years have been a reward for always keeping my faith on the enormous potential of the web. New organizational models, the rise of social media, the fall of traditional media, the birth and rise of Google, it’s been a hell of a ride.

What about you, how was your last decade? How has it changed your career? Do you find yourself at the place you envisioned ?

Happy Birthday to MM


Today is my birthday.

But a different one, since i decided to have no celebration, birthday candles or the usual drinks. However, you will have the chance to offer a unique gift.

Not for me, but rather to Missão Muxima, a charity group empowering children and educators at the Arnaldo Janssen’s Child Foster Center in Luanda, Angola.

My sister is one of the founders, and they need all the help we can get, so this year’s birthday don’t spend your money on gifts but rather

( Paypal to

Your gift will provide better life care to the children, and allow Missão Muxima to carry on with the previous work.

With your help, this will be one of my most special birthdays. And to the children also.

Thank you