Archive

Archive for March, 2009

Do you think that you can live without Google?

March 25, 2009 1 comment

InfrastructureHere is my latest guest post on AltSearchEngines blog.

Google’s search engine is the 21st century infrastructure.

A quick summary:

  • Search is a very large task
  • Search is costly
  • Search has become essential to the modern economy
  • Google is effective but it is a monopoly

It is similar to infrastructure on a large scale like roads, train tracks, ports, and utilities – all things that are essential to the smooth running of our economy.

Today it is so mission critical that we need to watch it closely or maybe even break it up.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 things to check before you retweet!

March 21, 2009 3 comments

Quickly after I started using real-time conversational search engines it becomes apparent that the crowd sourcing is sometime more like a herd sourcing. People retweet (re-share items on Twitter) blindly and carelessly. Here are the three things to consider before you retweet.

The short retweet checklist:

retweet

  1. How close you are to the news origin? Search the tweet or link using Twitter Search, MicroPlazza or any other microblogging search engine to see how many times it was retweeted before yours. In the case from the picture above it was “only” 972 times. If the link was shorten by bit.ly you can also see link’s statistics such as the time line and clicks count. Between these three tools you can tell how old this “news” is.
  2. Check if it is not a hoax – some people takes advantage of the fact that so many other people are eager to be among the first one to break the news. This one is tricky and everyone cal fall for it but I follow my father’s advice – “if there is a doubt there is not doubt”. Some news really sounds fishy:) I also noticed that people were still retweeting the false story even way after others were retweeting that it was a hoax.
  3. Will it waste people’s time – this is something that I’m struggling with lately.  As the number of people that follow me on Twitter grows, I feel more and more responsible for not wasting their time. I find myself checking and rechecking if the link, tweet or retweet delivers any value. I’m asking myself if I learned anything from the blog’s post or article that I just read or if the twitter fellow I’m about to recommend to others is really that good.

It is OK to retweet, it is the bridge between twitter’s remote social branches for passing content through. I only suggest to run this short retweet checklist prior. It will help you to become a better social media broadcaster and appreciated by your followers.

Do you have more items to add to this retweet checklist?

I wonder if I’ll ever see any retweet of my content after this post:)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Twitter killed the RSS reader

March 20, 2009 1 comment

First, I stopped using my favorites, then Digg, Delicious and other social rating/bookmarking websites,  now I found myself using less and less the RSS reader, Google or Netvibe. I find great content on Twitter, Twitter search Trending Topics and recently even greater quality content using Twitter based search tools. These are services that mine links from Twitter updates, using different algorithms and post them in an organized fashion. I will refer to these as real-time news search services like Feedly, Microplaza and others.

RSS readers limitations:

Limited selection – it takes time to find and build selection of great blogs.  What if the selected blog did not produce any good content lately?

Scalability – it requires the time to organize feeds into tabs or folders. Also some readers, after adding more content grew slower (some more than others).

Social rating/bookmarking websites

I do use delicious for bookmarking of great information and some time for search but I rarely visit the Popular Bookmark page. Submitting content to Digg is too slow and I think that rating is not as powerful as retweeting.

Email subscription

There are some blogs that I follow constantly and I find the email subscription option to work best. This way I know for sure that I’m not missing new content on a daily basis.

The new feed

I now count on Twitter and a growing number of real-time news search websites to feed my curiosity with links.

Feedly – the irony is that Feedly is actually taping into your Google Reader feeds and tags, but it also brings content from other sources including Twitter. You can even see Hot topics via Twitter i.e. trending tags and hashtags. Read more here

MicroPlaza – this service looks at popular links posted on Twitter by the people I’m following (my timeline view). You can also see popular links posted on the public timeline. There is a new feature called Tribe, it is in the work but this option allows me to filter/organize popular links by grouping (enrolling) different people whom I follow on Twitter, into different Tribes. I wish I could use Twellow or WeFollow to speed up organizing my personal list into categories and use them as Tribes in MicroPlaza but this is still better filter than TweetDeck grouping option. In MicroPlaza I only see the popular links from the tribe and not other useless chatty noise – this is a great filter . There are more features and I do plan to cover this service more thoroughly in another post but here I want to focus on the new Trend.

MicroPlaza

There are growing number of similar services out there. I’m monitoring an additional one but I won’t mention the name yet (giving them a chance to improve). The key feature for me is the quality of the links. How good is the information that the service successfully managed to mine from all the noise on Twitter. The speed is important too. So far the two mentioned above are doing fantastic job.

Using Twitter timeline for the content source pool, employing millions of human web crawlers, filtered by the people I trust (follow) and other mining technics seems like an improved method for finding the best content out there. It truely gives me an edge over RSS feed reader.

Did you stop using your RSS reader too?

I owe it to Sagee Ben-Zedeff for helping me to become aware of this change in my habits and the new Trend. This is another great thing about Twitter – I now reflect more rapidly:)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Search Engine is the 21st century infrastructure!

March 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Search is infrastructure

IndustrialNight Should we start looking at investments in building and maintaining search engines similar to other investment in infrastructure systems? I see two similarities. The first is that it is the next important thing in our digital lifestyle today after the hardware and software that connect our computers together. The second is because of the huge cost required for building and maintaining one.

The next most important thing

If you stop for a second to think about how many times a day you employ a search engine to accomplish a task you’ll notice that life could be way harder without it. If you need to find a place, a person or a  job online search is your starting point. It is the same case when looking for information about a disease, a company or a product. Modern search engines also helps to find directions, contact info, stock quotes and many more. I can’t think of a day without using a search engine (Google or others). When I think about infrastructure on a large scale I think about roads, train tracks, ports, and utilities. Metaphorically search engines take us from one place to another and if done right can save us a ton of time and energy. If done poorly it is a big waste!

Do you think like me that search engine have an impact on the world economy?

The mighty task

The web is big and expanding. In February of 2007, the Netcraft Web Server Survey found 108,810,358 distinct websites (not pages). In March of 2009 Netcraft found 224,749,695. New blogs are popping up every day and blogs post in some cases multiple times a day. Recently with the introduction of microblogging services like Twitter and other personal life streaming tools, content is growing even more rapidly. The information is also dynamic: websites go down and pages are being constanlty modified. Blogs allow people to leave comments over time. Content is way more than text and includes video, audio, and images.

Search consists of many steps and usually it starts with crawling – getting the data. This is a mighty task that requires building an army of web crawlers to spider the web. It requires a crawling plan using sophisticated algorithms looking for new content and also for keeping the stored ones up to date. It requires huge number of storage place and heavy computation resources.

The other tasks include indexing, lingual processing and ranking (for relevance and popularity). If you are interested in learning how Google scale this process by breaking down tasks even further read the following blog post about Google Architecture.

It is impossible to compare but it seems like building and maintaining a large scale search engine is as hard as building a new power station and probably costs as much too.

Do you think like me that search engines have an impact on our energy resources and our environment?

Question and concerns

The purpose of this section is getting you thinking about my analogy and what it might mean.

The Monopoly question – do we need more than one?

In some aspect the search engine industry fit the Natural monopoly dual definitions:

  1. “…it is the assertion about an industry, that multiple firms providing a good or service is less efficient (more costly to a nation or economy) than would be the case if a single firm provided a good or service.”
  2. “It is said that this is the result of high fixed costs of entering an industry which causes long run average costs to decline as output expands”

Google could be explained as a natural monopoly.  It now has now more than 70% market share.

The first definition raises the question: why do we need to more than one?  The second could explain why only one may survive.

If you noticed in my language here I leave plenty of room for alternative options – it is on purpose. I know software and technology too well to surprise me. IBM was almost invincible at the time, Sun was not far from it too. Even Microsoft does not look as intimidating as it use to be. And if you believe that real-time search is the future than you already know that maybe there is no need for deploying such a huge crawling tasks in order to find great content.

I personally don’t have much concerns about Google as a monopoly now. As a consumer I don’t feel any pricing power:) but maybe the companies that pay for ads do.

I do have concerns about the cost of maintaining a search engine or duplicating the effort in a large scale.

High Energy cost

Here is an excerpt from Data Center Energy Forecast – Executive Summary – July 29, 2008.

“As of 2006, the electricity use attributable to the nation’s servers and data centers is estimated at about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. Between 2000 and 2006 electricity use more than doubled, amounting to about $4.5 billion in electricity costs. This amount was more than the electricity consumed by color televisions in the U.S. It was equivalent to the electricity consumed by 5.8 million average U.S. households (which represent 5% of the U.S. housing stock). And it was similar to the amount of electricity used by the entire U.S. transportation manufacturing industry (including the manufacture of automobiles, aircraft, trucks, and ships)”

Google is making an effort to reduce the cost of their data centers’ energy bills. My concern is that having multiple search engine companies around seems as wasteful as pooling multiple power lines to every home. I also think that the energy consumption should be distributed across the globe since the search engine serves the entire world and not only one country.

Yet, what will happen if Google goes belly up?

I know that this seems radical and almost unimaginable at this point but what if one day advertisers will find another place to buy ad-space other than SERPs? Our lives are so dependent on Internet search technology that if no one can pay for the cost of maintaining one that could be a big regression with direct impact on world economy.

Should we do something?

Regulations

One way to deal with Natural Monopoly is to turn in into some sort of Government-granted monopoly. In this case it is not the government but some sort of world organization that can enforce regulations and demands like:

  • More energy efficient data centers
  • Improving crawl technics (Cuil claimed it has one)
  • Crawl to cover more ground -  deep web
  • Accounting governance and building cash reserves.

I know that this is radical – please remember, the purpose of this article is not to support going back to controlled market but to get us aware of the cost, power and dependencies associated with search engines.

How to break Google the right way?

I read somewhere that maybe Google should be broken up by the functionality it provides like search, email, maps etc… Another way to break Google is to take away the crawl and leave the rest. Something like the Yahoo BOSS model. The crawl should be done by a single non profit organization founded by multiple governments (i.e. tax money). In the same way as we pay for our education system (I know…it is not that great). Again, just think about it differently for a moment:)

The New Deal

I know that this is the most radical idea in this post but if search engine is such an important part of our infrastructure should our president, Barack Obama, include it in his 21st Century New Deal? At the least listing maintaning search engine as another infrastructure system. Maythe one that function relativly the best at this point.

Summary

The points that I like you to take from this post are:

  • Search engine is more than software
  • The tasks of building and maintaining new search engine on a large scale have an impact on society
  • Search is a global problem
  • We are heavily dependent on this technology
  • Google is a monopoly – for good and bad.
  • Maybe it is time to rethink the old way of crawling the web
    • How much data is collected but never used (SERP #200)?
    • Can people replace crawling (Social search engines/Twitter)?

Picture credit to my favorite artist Ron Shoshani

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

10 practical questions about Social Media

March 15, 2009 5 comments

Social media may sounds too simple: sharing, caring, and link love. It is tempting to jump right in, getting on-board without planing. Although  that might work well for the individual, I don’t recommend it to the business. The company should think about goals, content, expectations, and strategy, before making the leap in. Here are 10 questions that the company may start with.

10 practical questions about Social Media

  1. What should an established company blog about?
  2. What should a start-up company blog about?
  3. What should both company types avoid writing about?
  4. Should you be on Twitter (a question for the CEO/Founder)?
  5. Should you have a personal Twitter account in addition to the venture account? Should you use both in conjunction (a question for the CEO/Founder)?
  6. Whom should the corporate invite to write on its blog ( from within and the outside)?
  7. How does a thought leader looks like?
  8. How do you project an Executive Presence on social media channels?
  9. Assuming value using Social Media, how long do you expect till it materialized (a question for the venture leaders)?
  10. What do you expect to drive using social media tools: leads generation/traffic, brand marketing/monitoring/web presence, relationship building/corporate development, else?

thought leader?

Is this how a thought leader looks like?

In order to come up with the right strategy for an effective use of social media, these questions, among others, should be discussed. Participation in Social digital media is an on-going effort, one that requires an investment of company time and resources. It is a cross-functional effort with multiple stakeholders. Having clear expectations for the effort level required from each organizational function, is crucial.

I think that it is possible to come up with  good answers to most of the questions  above (and I don’t claim to be a Social Media expert).

Other questions are still open and will require more research:

Are social media values quantifiable? How? What are the measures?

Large corporation should invest time searching for social media measures and ROI. A large corporate, with Marketing budget that could be allocated across multiple channels, will have to identify and monitor different indicators  in order to justify an investment in social media. Even prior to adding social media channels and tools, the company must evaluates its commitment level for participation in social media.

For a small start-up company where Social Media is, by large, the cheapest way around for building presence in the market (for both targeting investments and market penetration) the ROI question is almost irrelevant. The investment is small in compare to other means of branding and the results are potentially dramatic. A single lead can make a critical difference to the start-up survival chances. Being reviewed by an influencing blogger can drive traffic and product adoption. Getting feedback or advice from fans and followers may get the company/product on the right track.

Prior to adding social media to the mix, no matter what type of organization you run, think about the 10 questions above (and some more). There are great resources out there that can help you to start on the right foot. The best advice I should give you is to start reading blogs.

What other questions about social media should be asked?

Btw, the picture above was taken by me while visiting the Sidney Zoo in Australia (2005).

The new cool mom is a social media maven!

March 6, 2009 4 comments

The new cool moms

cool-mom  If you are in the blogsphere long enough it is hard not to notice cool mom’s blogs, blogs networks, and twitter streams.  Sometime employed and other times staying at home moms are sharing their stories, knowledge and life using social networks and tools. Whenever I land on a cool mom blog (oftentimes, thanks to Twitter) I never leave it before reading the About page. This page usually tell me about the mom author’s past education, employment and the current family status. In most cases it reflects well how talented, smart and driven that blogger is. In some cases it shouts – I’m a very cool mom! 

Finding cool moms

On Twitter

I did a search on Twellow crossing moms with social media (@bio mom & @bio “social media”) and my query returned 174 moms. The top mom on that list was Jessica Smith (@JessicaKnows) who has more than 10,000 followers. Recently Twellow added a powerful new feature that enable to limit searches to the scope of your personal Twitter network i.e. friends and followers. I tried it searching for moms/mother and found a total of 21 twitter moms amongst my twittership. One of them is Nansen Malin, a mom of 4 who has more than 43k followers. I found two additional cool moms searching for both mom and “social media”. Btw, searching the entire Twellow directory for @bio SAHM yielded 675 people. Here are three cool moms on Twitter: GeekMommy(10k+ followers),  MommyBrain(2.8k+ followers), BargainMama(878 followers). If you want to find influential moms on Twitter, search TwittterGrader.

The blogsphere

The first stop for looking at cool mom blogs authority is Technorati.  I also did a quick search using IceRocket for the term SAHM and here is one interesting page that I found The Obnoxious SAHM’s Page, then my Firefox addon Headup window poped-up and suggested Mom-101 blog (in the top 10K on Technorati). Another tool that helped me to find active moms and bloggers was backtype. Sifting thorough blog comments (the heartbeat of the blogsphere) I found many more interesting social media blogs like social media mom and Holistic Mama.

Communities and networks

I Googled women’s/mom’s blog networks – here are some of the top ranked results:

I’m sure that there are many more. I’m yet to see a tool that rank blog networks (as a whole) or a search engine that focus on finding what mom does in her very little spare time. Yet, this is beside the point of this blogs.

Cool moms are social media mavens

Some moms are cooler than others

What that make some moms cooler than others is how skilled they are executing the essential social media activities such as writing interesting and useful content, selfless sharing, and leveraging the technology. If you are a newbe mom and want to learn how to become a social media maven follow the Cool mom guide (on Twitter CoolMomGuide – 3k+ followers). Even of you are not a mom, or a women at all but interested in learning about social media I recommend following some of the cool moms out there.

Cool mom is a business

Some moms blogs or network seems to be a real business. It is easy to see ads, banners, affiliated links on many SAHM blogs. Others become social media consultants that offer from their experience. If you have any doubt, if what that looks like a hobby, but is actually a real business just read TechCrunch-  BlogHer Inks Deal With NBC Universal, Raises $5 Million.

Summary

I think that it is great to see how social media helps people to find the way to channel their energy, talent and skills using blogging and microblogging no matter where they are physically (@home) or  in life (raising kids).  The new mom or the new cool mom is a social media maven – an expert in building networks and tribes, delivering her message to the world, becoming a leader and influencer.

What do you think? Are cool mom behind fueling the social media buzz?

Picture taken by sean dreilinger

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.