Monday, 4 June 2012

Why African developers need to take software patenting seriously? My $2 Million Dollar idea was Stolen.

       Last year in June I realized so many people where getting used to the concept of social networks and trusting these networks with their data. I saw the need to tap into that great opportunity to build something that would make their social life more interesting and engaging. I made a research and understood that 65% of internet users had signed up to one or more social networks (My space, Hi5, facebook, twitter, linkedin and Google +).I knew Google were the best when it comes to searching for data on the internet but it was crappy when It comes to searching for human names. Googlebot will crawl and bring you so many articles that had similar names and it makes your social search experience defective.
      I had a believe that when you are searching for a person named Linda Dede,  the search engine should be smart enough to know you are searching for a person and not a String of characters [L][I][N][D][A] [D][E][D][E] I decided to build a prototype of a  large-scale social search engine which makes heavy use of the structure of social networks. This was how it would work, when you search for a name of a  person, it would first rank social networks, then it ranks your geographic location and before finally it would rank indexes of hundreds of millions web pages. I came up with an algorithm that would make this social engine possible. Its social search tree would take into account profiles, tags, comments, contacts, images plus more social tools.
      To engineer a search engine is a challenging task but I wrote basic codes for it.My biggest constraint was the fact that I did not have anyone to help me in terms of research and implementation. I failed with my beta tests so I decided to go online for help, I found a couple of websites that could help you but they were not good enough for the project so I decided to consult the most successful and fastest search engine in the world for help Google. I found out they had an open source tool called Google custom search that could help a developer build a search engine with ease. I decided to delve into it. I easily implemented 89% of my social search algorithm with it. Social networks will always be ranked first for a result of a query. I named my search engine "FindMe".Before your custom search engine is authorized by Google you need to give it a brief description and this was the description I gave mine.
“Find Me is a custom Search engine we created to help you find and to stay connected with old friends, acquaintances and lost family relations via Social networks.” As you can see in the image below..I launched this engine in July, last year but it did not gain much publicity because people didn’t see the essence in social search in my zone but I believed in it. Also take a closer look at the last time I updated code.It was in August,2011.
     In January this year Google launched a product called "Search plus your world". The feature, which is integrated into Google's regular search as an opt-out feature, pulls references to results from Google+ profiles. What it means is when a user types in a name it will rank its social network first for results. This is where my hypothesis for social search comes in. When a user types in a query for a person it should rank persons before anything else. And in my view Google is not doing it right because they should give all social networks an equal chance to be ranked at the top. They are violating their informal motto "Dont be evil".
    In march this year, Tech crunch posted news about a  Y- Combinator ( Silicon Valley Incubator ) backed startup called Ark lets you search through public profiles and the private data of your friends across Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and other networks. Kindly read the description of my search engine and note the resemblance. This was an idea I pursued but as a friend of mine will say in this technology world before you think somebody has already thought. Nii Andrews.
      At Y Combinator’s Demo Day, a short Ark pitch delivered in the midst of 64 other start-up presentations got the company commitments for $2 million in funding in a single day. And more than 250,000 people have signed up for Ark beta invites. Till date findme is my worst product because its analytics proves that it has had only 390 page views since I launched it in Accra, Ghana but its concept is worth more than 2 million dollars.
     If I was backed by a strong team or supported very much at the beginning I would have patented the idea of social search. It is high time our environment start to stand firmly behind young African men and women developers who are always up at dawn working on something they believe in. It is not enough to congratulate them vocally of their achievements, it will be right if you can support them with your resources be it financially, intellectually, skills set and much more. Most African developers are so busy struggling to make ends meet – in an environment where tech equipment costs 2-4x what it does in Europe and the US, where technical books are almost nonexistent, where there are no credit cards to purchase from Amazon – that they don’t have time to think of patenting their softwares and ideas.

  NB: Findme is still online you can search for your own name and see the social data it will pull about you. There are a few constraints when you have a very popular name like Micheal Jackson,It would be hard to bring you the results you require. It will be best if you input a name that you use with two or three social networks to see its effectiveness. It is a prototype of the social search engine I built with Google’s custom search builder.