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Why you should use FourSquare

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m a check-in addict. I also like those fancy badges that I occasionally earn on FourSquare. I think that I’m also a mayor of a place or two. However, since I’m not using American Express credit card I did not gain any tangible value using the product. That changed yesterday when for the first time I got this check-in special that saved me $9, cool! FourSquare, you did it!

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Categories: iPhone App, Product

My top three books for 2013

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Happy new year!

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Categories: Personal, Product

I like the wallpapers generated by Wallstagram new mobile app

December 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Wallstagram is a new iPhone app from Webstagram that selects randomly pictures from your instagram feed (there is also an option to let it pick from the popular feeds) and stitches those together into a wallpaper(one picture). If you don’t like the result just ask it to start over.
One thing that I would like to see is an option to replace only one of the selected pictures.

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How to watch TV

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment
Options Experience Example
“Old fashion” TV “Lean back” Content is broadcasted, the consumer is passive. clip_image002
Digital TV Content is streamed, consumer has options to watch on-demand, browse the Internet . clip_image004
Social TV Content is streamed, consumer has options to watch on-demand, browse the Internet while tweeting, posting on facebook or to chatting with friends. clip_image006
“Second Screen” Content is streamed to the TV and additional content is streamed to the mobile device (tablet, smartphone).In some cases special apps are built for TV shows or events to synchornized content with the TV. Social capabilities are sometimes included to allow sharing and chatting with friends. clip_image008

VivaStream – how to know “who to know?”- during DMA2011 conference in Boston

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

imageI’m going to the DMA2011 conference in Boston next week, and this year the focus is on Real-Time marketing. What could be more relevant than that?

Learning about the different marketing methods that are leveraging mobile, social, and real-time data will be one goal of this event and networking is yet another (not a side effect).

VivaStream is a startup that is building a real-time mobile app and web-site that aims to take networking during business events like DMA11 to the next level.

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Before the event starts: you setup your profile, select the conference, browse the schedule, and press the Attend button for the sessions that you plan to go to. Any of your actions is broadcasted to the VivaStream stream telling others about you. VivaStream also offers a reach lists of relevant topics and you can select from one of the two following options: I’m Interested or I Can Help. VivaStream uses this information among other factors to suggest people that you should connect with. There are more useful features and details, but this is the basic.

During the event: Since this is my first event using VivaStream, I’m yet to see the real-time capabilities in action. As you can see in the picture above, VivaStream plans to share some of the statistics based on the information gathered from users’ activities, and to let us know about interesting presentations and spontaneously organized after parties – IN REAL-TIME.

After the event ends: there is a strong possibility to see VivaStream building a new professional social network for networking with a purpose, based on interest and need, and fairly quick.

VivaStream is a very busy start-up, but here are few suggestions for additional features that I would like to see:

  • Show me my agenda (calendar view) built based on presentations that I planed to attend to.
  • Allow users to enter topics
  • Create multiple streams based on different activities (it could get too noisy in a single feed stream)
  • Allow users to shout-out (for example: book signing now next to room ###)
  • Check-in to a session (and maybe check-out, or leave a comment)
  • Number of people interested in a certain topic (next to the topic)
  • Number of people attending a presentation (next to the presentation)

VivaStream has the potential to become an important component of any business event. It is fairly easy to see the value to the event organizers that can learn in real-time about activities within the conference rooms as well as outside, the presenting vendors looking for leads, and for the consumers that are looking for relevant help and experience.

Now, I’m looking forward to see how it all plays out in real-time. Go Viva!

Apple’s future profitability heavily depends on mobile!

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Will Apple be able to mitigate the impact of strong competition in the mobile market on future earnings?

The information is taken from Apples 2010 10k (numbers in Millions)

Net Sales by Product: 2008 2009 2010
Desktops $5,622 $4,324 $6,201
Portables $8,732 $9,535 $11,278
iPod $9,153 $8,091 $8,274
Other music related products and services $3,340 $4,036 $4,948
iPhone and related products and services $6,742 $13,033 $25,179
Peripherals and other hardware $1,694 $1,475 $1,814
Software, service and other sales $2,208 $2,411 $2,573
iPad and related products and services $0 $0 $4,958

From 0 to 5 Billions in one year – iPad success

iPhone sales almost doubled in each of the past two years (in 2007 when the iPhone was firstly introduce, sales were “only” 630 millions).

Apple also managed to significantly increase laptops sales(Portables), thanks to Apple’s success selling other products and building strong brand name. Yet, not at the same rate as iPhone revenue growth.

iPad sales is going down – it is now inside the iPhone?

Apple’s iPhone become a big source of revenue

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Apple’s iPhone share of revenue is growing significantly relative to the other products

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Apple is a multi-markets player: mobile, media, b2c hardware, b2b hardware, software and services.

Apple can always surprise us with a new blockbuster product changing another market.

Mobile marketing – mobile is not a single channel

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This may sound trivial to the people who are very close to mobile marketing world, but it is not that obvious to others who are still trying to adjust to the rapid mobile market development.

First, mobile is not just your cell phone, and it is not just the new smart phones like iPhone or Droid. It is also eReaders like Nook and Kindle, tablet devices like the iPad and its mini version, the iPod Touch. Even Nintendo DS could connect to the web. And it is also your old and suddenly cumbersomely looking laptop. If it receives data and could be carried then it is another mobile channel.

Yet, even all these mobile devices does not sum to the entire multichannel marketing story. A brand can communicate its messages in more than one way using smart phones.

  • SMS – short messages
  • eMail
  • Mobile web site
  • Mobile search
  • Apps:
    • With or without LBS (location based services)
    • Apps that uses the camera for capturing and scanning objects
    • Context specific apps like Drync

Why is it so important to be aware of all these interaction points? Read about the results of Microsoft’s experiment using multichannel mobile marketing here. Quoting Alison Engel, senior marketing director at Microsoft Advertising (from the same blog post)

The advertising effectiveness results demonstrated that advertiser value increases incrementally with the addition of digital media channels.

Some examples for running mobile campaigns using different communication channels:

  • Bottom up – start-ups like Foursquare and Gowalla that started as mobile apps – Foursquare encourages people to visit different locations many times. FS uses game like campaigns to drive traffic, loyalty, and revenue for customers like Starbucks.
  • Top down
    • Companies like Yelp and Facebook that adds mobile app to their web site – Social networks where people share about what they like or not. Knowing where they are in addition to what they like would help to build even more powerful campaigns.
    • The big brands that are using mobile apps to run location based campaigns like: Pepsi, Rolls-Royce, and others.
    • Companies such as McDonald that uses LBS services like Navteq to run mobile location based campaigns and seeing higher CTR.
    • News and content web-site like NYT, and The Weather Channel.
  • I’m sure that all these new mobile channels in addition to the already growing number of web channels, like Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are raising some tough questions in the Marketing department:

  • Finding the right balance of resources and budget allocation per channel
  • Executing different communication strategies via each channel
  • Measuring the effectiveness for a multichannel play
    Your thoughts,

Pictures credit: Keith Williamson

15 simple ways to search Google for an instant answer

Categories: Product, Software Tags:

Google’s search engine is the 21st infrastructure.

June 11, 2010 5 comments

Google’s search engine is the 21st infrastructure.

Search is infrastructure

When we think about infrastructure on a large scale we think about roads, train tracks, ports, and utilities – all things that are essential to the smooth running of our economy. Online searching has become so essential to our lives today that I think that we should add it to the traditional world infrastructure list.

Building and maintaining a search engine is so expensive and labor intensive that it requires the same kind of planning and upkeep that, say, the Golden Gate Bridge does.

I see two similarities between traditional infrastructure and search engines. The first is that a search engine is a mission critical system. The second is because the cost required for building and maintaining a good search engine is enormous—just as the costs are for ports, railroad tracks, and the electrical grid.

Mission critical system

Can you imagine a week without Google? Think for a moment how many times a day you use a search engine for a task. Life would be much harder without it. We are using a search engine to find a place, a person or a job. It is the same case when looking for information about a disease, a company or a product. Modern search engines also help to find directions, contact info, stock quotes and innumerable other things. I can’t think of a day without using a search engine (mostly Google but others too). Metaphorically search engines take us from one place to another (like planes, trains and boats), and if well designed and maintained they can save us an enormous amount of time and energy. But if that is not the case, they can be a big waste of time!

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 (only two years later) the number had more than doubled, to 224,749,695. The number of web pages is more accurate than the number of websites but I think that the numbers above tell us enough about the size of the web.

New blogs are popping up every day, and blogs can post in some cases multiple times a day. With the recent 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 constantly modified. Blogs allow people to leave comments over time. Content is much more than text and can include video, audio, and images.

A search consists of many steps. It usually 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 necessitates an immense amount of storage space 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 scales this process by breaking down tasks even further, read the following blog post about Google Architecture)

It is impossible to compare entirely, 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.

Living with Monopoly

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

The Monopoly question – do we need more than one search engine?

In some ways, a search engine industry might fit the definition of what’s known as a “Natural monopoly” (wikipedia):

  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 defined as a natural monopoly.  It now has more than a 70% market share.
The first definition raises the question: why do we need to more than one search engine provider? The second could explain why only one provider may survive.

Why we don’t need more than this one?

I’m personally not concerned about Google’s monopoly power to set rates. As a consumer I don’t feel any pricing power:) but maybe the companies that pay for ads do.

I do have a couple of concerns: The first is about the cost to the country and the world of maintaining a search engine or duplicating the effort in a large scale.
The second is that because it is such an important and world critical system, more stakeholders around the globe should be paying attention.

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 Google size 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.

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 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 would have a direct impact on the world economy.

Maybe we need a different solution?

To reiterate:
-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
Yet today it is so mission critical that we need to watch it closely or maybe even break it up.

Regulations

One way to deal with a mission-critical natural monopoly is to turn it 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
  • Better storage solutions
  • Crawl to cover more ground – deep web
  • Accounting governance and building cash reserves.

I know that this might sound like a radical idea. Please remember, the purpose of this article is not to support a return to a controlled market but to get us aware of the cost, power and dependencies associated with search engines.

Explore alternative search technologies (similar to exploring alternative energy sources)

In addition to possible regulations, there are other ways to address the functions that a natural monopoly like Google currently serves:

  • Split the search task like crawling, storage and indexing and distribute them across multiple venors.
  • Create better crawling algorithmsCuil claimed to find a more efficient and scalable ways to crawl the web (it is not about Cuil it is about the idea).
  • Real-time search (conversational search) – 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. Let the crowd do the job.
  • p2p - distribute the the crawl, indexing, ranking and storage, across many search users. This technology mitigates the single point of failure risk and leverages existing unused computational resources.

Summary

The new president of the United States, Barack Obama, is leading his 21st Century New Deal with the hope that big investment in the country’s infrastructure will spur economic growth and prosperity. Online search has become a mission critical task in our lives. It has an impact on the world economy and energy consumption. I think that it should not be overlooked. To the traditional infrastructure list of transportation, telecommunication and energy we should add the 21st century infrastructure – online search engine.
In the same way that nations monitor the condition of their infrastructure, they should be looking at search engine implementations and technologies.

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

  • A 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 objective
  • We are heavily dependent on this technology
  • Google is a monopoly – for better or worse.

Do you share my opinion that search engines have an impact on the world economy?
Do you agree with me that Google is a mission critical system today?
Should we be worried if someone might duplicate the task of keeping a large portion of the web crawled, stored and indexed?

**This blog post was published before on AltSearchEngine.com (my guest post) and it is no longer available so I decided to publish it here again.

Picture credit to my favorite artist Ron Shoshani

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