Posts Tagged Google

The Vortex: There’s a Curse Word in This One

Perhaps it’s the end-of-summer quiet but there wasn’t a lot of technosphere silliness this week – just actual news! Don’t get too comfortable; September is just around the corner.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–It’s America’s Funniest Home Videos for the 21st century. YouTube is now giving revenue share to uploaders of hit videos. Once a video gets a certain number of viewings, YouTube will offer to put ads around it and give you a cut of the profits. So get that cat on the piano pronto and start counting the dollars.

–The big kerfuffle of the week resulted in the word “skank” being tossed around with abandon. So that’s fun. Model Liskula Cohen won a lawsuit against Google, forcing the company to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who called her a skank and other unseemly things. The ruler could have much broader ramifications for blogging; could this be the beginning of the end for trolling?

Apps on the Radar

–If you haven’t already heard that the new Facebook iPhone app is here, you likely don’t need it.

–If you’re a hardcore Firefox user, check out SmarterFox. It has a plethora of browser tricks that will make IE seem even quainter. (Jessica’s slideshow here gives a good overview.)

–Frequent fliers should check out WorldMate, an app that creates automatic itineraries from your fowarded travel confirmations. There’s a free and paid version, the latter of which gives push notification of flight delays. Yeah, you think you won’t need this. And then you meet the Dublin airport.

–The unfortunately named CommuTweet (aren’t you expecting updates from Karl Marx?) lets users tweet about traffic jams in which they’re sitting. Kind of a “it’s too late for me but save yourselves” sort of thing.

16Apps pokes its nose into your Twitter stream (or or FriendFeed) and then recommends iPhone apps for you. From my updates, it surmised that I curse, drink beer and am into politics. Wow. I sound like a real winner.

Tweet of the Week

–Why didn’t I think of this? Some enterprising fellow created the Twitter id @shitmydadsays and it’s as funny as you think it will be. I had a hard time picking just one tweet so go read the whole stream. But this one made me giggle a bit more than the others: “Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn’t stand for shit. Just sat there. Big let down.”

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Searching for Answers in Search

There has been an influx of announcements in the search world lately – Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and Siri among the most high profile – so our upcoming panel at SemTech 2009 really couldn’t come at a better time. Set for next Wednesday, June 17 at 8:30am at the San Jose Fairmont, our Executive Roundtable on Semantic Search will pick some of the biggest brains in the business to share their insights on where search is now, where it should be going and what role semantic technology should play in this complex sector.

With both Microsoft and Google represented, we’re sure to discuss Bing and its new place in the search game. Yahoo and will share their experiences as legacy sites that must constantly innovate to stay viable. And up-and-comers True Knowledge and Hakia can give perspective on what it’s like to battle the behemoths in a space that is always hungry for more. In short, we’ve got every aspect of the search game covered so you won’t want to miss it.

If you’re not already registered for SemTech, do so now. Friends of Guidewire Group get a $300 discount on a full-conference pass. If you’re only interested in semantic search, the conference is offering a special Semantic Search Day pass for $195. This gets you access to our panel, a one-on-one Wolfram Alpha interview by Nova Spivack, and access to the exhibit hall.

Hope to see you all in San Jose next week!

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We May Not Know Where the Web is Going But These Folks Sure Do

As reported in ReadWriteWeb last month, we’ve been working on a fantastic roundtable for DEMOfall and I’m thrilled to finally be able to reveal details. Nova Spivack, the session’s moderator, and I have worked overtime to secure a stellar and diverse line-up of thought leaders to answer the very tough question:  Where the Web is Going?

Though everyone can agree that we’re on the cusp of the next Internet revolution, its exact definition is one of frequent and vigorous debate. Is Web 3.0 about semantics or user-generated content? Innovate search engines or cloud computing? Where does the enterprise fit in all this? And what about big media; are they adapting sufficiently and flexibly?

To address these issues for and with DEMO’s business-minded audience, we thought we’d go straight to the big guns. As Nova says,

My goal for this panel is to find out where the major Web incumbents think the Web is going. If their stock valuations do not fluctuate one way or the other by at least a few hundred million in market cap after this panel then I have failed.

He sets manageable goals, no?  Without further ado, our lineup for ‘Where the Web is Going: Web 2.0, 3.0 and Beyond.’ There is sure to be lively debate with this group, so make sure you’re registered for DEMOfall 08; you won’t want to miss a thing.

Moderator: Nova Spivack, Founder and CEO, Radar Networks


Ross Levinsohn, Partner, Velocity Interactive Group

Howard Bloom, Author, The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century

Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google Inc.

Jon Udell, Evangelist, Microsoft Corporation

Prabhakar Raghavan, PhD, Head of Research and Search Strategy, Yahoo! Inc.

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Is Demographic Search Smart Business?

Chris and I engaged in a lively discussion via Skype this morning regarding the merits of Rushmore Drive, a new search engine targeted to African-Americans. I heard about it from SheGeeks, who stated quite clearly how she feels about the service. Especially after hearing Rushmore Drive is under the same corporate umbrella as, my immediate reaction was also one of dismissal and “what the hell are they thinking?” You may remember my own rant a couple of months ago about Ask’s development of a search engine targeted to suburban women in the Midwest. My point then – that the path to search success lies in broadening rather than narrowing your audience – holds true with Rushmore Drive. Assuming a group of people wants results from a limited pool denegrates the audience and simply doesn’t hold water.

Chris isn’t necessarily a fan of these sites either but she can’t help but put her experienced analyst hat on and deliver some opposing points. Her argument is that engines like Rushmore are serving a viable subset within a demographic that vehemently holds on to that demographic as their identity. There are enough of those subsets in any demographic to create a business; the question of how big that business is remains to be answered. She concluded by allowing that there are some issues she might turn to a women’s site over a general one, assuming they’ll have better information, i.e., health-related such as breast cancer, pregnancy, or menopause.

It’s easy to deliver emotional responses to such a model, as it’s inherently personal. That, after all, is the intended effect of the engines. Unable to differentiate algorithmically from the Google way of search, these companies are instead aiming to add a personal layer. If I can’t necessarily deliver a better search result to you, dear user, I’ll try appealing to your gut. Who are you and with whom do you identify? It’s a philosophical/psychological approach and it’s risky. To work effectively, the engine must excise some results and/or bring others to the fore. Who’s making that determination? Can one possibly write an algorithm to home in on female or African-American search results? I doubt it and I think that’s the point.

Technology should be blind to race, gender and creed. If you want to appeal to a demographic, create a destination site. Pack it to the hilt with what you think are appropriate links and material and let it be sourced by a general search engine. But the very nature of search is and should be egalitarian. Attempting to attract certain groups of people by rearranging their search results is, at best, touting a product for what it doesn’t do. And that to me, seems bad business.

What do you think?

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Pink Search Stinks

The news from today has shocked many. Conceding the broad search space to Google, Ask is narrowing its focus to married women in the flyover states (my wording), who “need help managing their lives.” The new search site will “concentrate on finding answers to basic questions about recipes, hobbies, children’s homework, entertainment and health.” The implication being that women aren’t finding what they’re looking for on Google.

As a married mother living in the Texas suburbs, I’m in the unique position of being both an analyst of search technologies and in Ask’s new target demographic. I see multiple problems from both angles. As a technologist, I believe the path to search success lies in broadening, rather than narrowing, your audience. Searchers, no matter their gender, want to know they’re getting the best result from the broadest range of sources on any subject in the world. Assuming any group of people only want results on and from a limited pool just doesn’t make sense. As a married woman, well, I use a wide variety of engines for various search needs and they’re all filling the bill just fine.

To avoid clouding the issue with bias on either side, though, I interviewed a friend, stay-at-home mom of three boys, Polly. Her response:

What are they filtering out that I won’t/can’t understand? I feel I’m being told that I’m too dumb for Google. I’m not feeling any insufficiency in my search. It sounds to me like an easy way to sell advertising.

She was particularly bothered by the “southern, midwestern” classification, which implies women on the coasts are doing just fine with their searches. Frankly, what Ask is doing is reinforcing every stereotype of a Midwest housewife and I don’t think it will be particularly welcomed in this day and age.

Unless Ask has plans to integrate a heavy social presence into the site, I can’t see this succeeding. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to underestimate its users. I think Ask just did that in spades.

**Note: we contacted Ask for commentary and did not hear back. I’d love to hear their reasoning behind this move.

**And another update: Ask is now backpedaling, telling Forbes that the AP report was “erroneous” and has since been changed.  I’m with Blogoscoped here: anyone have a copy of the retraction from AP? It would also seem to me that if Ask truly wanted to correct the messaging, they would have jumped to respond to me yesterday. We’ll continue to keep an eye out…

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A Different Kind of Social Networking Conference

Disclaimer: I am chair of the Board of Directors of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives. The following event is organized by FWE&E, although I’ve not been actively involved with its planning.

Later this month, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, the Bay Area’s most active forum for women in leadership roles, will host the half-day conference “Business Applications of Social Networking.” The event will be held Tuesday, March 25th at the Computer History Museum and is being underwritten by Google.

Unlike other events on the topic are designed for social media insiders or that serve as an arena for platform wars, this event is designed to help business leaders better understand and extract value from social networks. This time-efficient conference isn’t about platform or profiles; it’s about leveraging social media and networking tools for your business. Speakers include:

If you’ve wondered how to make Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, or any of the dozens of social networking tools more pertinent to your business, I recommend you register for and attend this practical, time-efficient conference. Early registration discounts expire March 7.

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Surf Canyon: Sophisticated Simplicity

I first talked with Surf Canyon in 2007 and, in a profile for The Guidewire Report, took a wait-and-see approach to the company’s search technology. Delivering personalized, refined results to searchers via its Web site, Surf Canyon chose to focus on result customization rather than building an index from scratch. At the time, I wondered why another entrant was needed in search and posited that more differentiation was needed to make the service stand out. With today’s launch of its Discovery Engine for Search, Surf Canyon delivers that differentiation.

A browser plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer, the Discovery Engine has two things going for it: no new behavior is required from the user and no additional sites need be visited. I’ve been using the plug-in for several weeks now and have quickly grown to love it. It’s one of my favorite types of technology – I downloaded it and forgot about it until it made my life easier. When I search for something on Google, click a link and find it’s not what I need, hitting the back button activates Surf Canyon. It notes the link I clicked on and drills further down into the results to deliver similar results. Alternatively, you can click on the bulls-eyes next to each result to drill down without clicking through a link. I recently searched for the phrase “semantic investments.” Clicking on a link that interested me returned a related result from page 16 of the Google results – one I never would have seen without Surf Canyon.

It’s so simple and works so well that I wonder how much of a buzz it will raise in the search world. There are no tech stars behind it, no semantic appellations, no promises to change the world or defeat Google. Just an easy-to-use service on the front and complex algorithms on the back that make my existing search habits much more productive.

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Microsoft + Yahoo: Can the Deal Get Done?

I woke this morning to the news that Microsoft has tendered a $44.6 billion ($31/share) offer to buy Yahoo in a cash and stock deal. (And here I thought I was getting up early to pack for vacation!).

The acquisition has been rumored and speculated on for a year or more, and even in the dawns early light there’s plenty of commentary on whether the deal should or should not happen, whether it makes sense, what the combined company might look like, what Microsoft ought to do with the Yahoo asset.

When rumors of a possible merger circulated last May, Om Malik called a Microsoft-Yahoo merger a “bad idea.” He wrote:

Marrying a company with Internet DNA (Yahoo) with another who can’t take a step forward without turning its neck twice (looking back at the PC) is not that easy. Will this deal become the 21st century version of AOL-Time Warner merger, and a high-water mark for the current boom?

One-time Wall Street wonder-analyst Henry Blodget called a potential merger a “smart strategic move” but advised Microsoft to create a new company Internet company in the process.

Would it be a smart strategic move for Microsoft and Yahoo to combine forces? Absolutely. Is the best way to do this to have Microsoft suck Yahoo into the massive Windows/Office empire? Absolutely not. If Microsoft buys Yahoo, Microsoft should immediately spin the Yahoo-MSN business out as a separate company. If it doesn’t, both Yahoo and MSN will die

Now that the deal has gone from rumor to announcement, there’ll be plenty of jockeying around these two, and a myriad of other, opinions. I’ll leave that speculation to folks who are far better arm-chair quarterbacks than I. But what I will say is this:

Not so fast. Read the rest of this entry »

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