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April 21, 2006  

aus meinen logfiles: Free Login von eine seite fuer Wow

fred wilson, venture capitalist in new york and an old hand at internet business, puts the current race for dominance in information management of the “world live web”, as technorati likes to call it, or “the changing web”, as john battelle labels it more accurately – being mainly search, bookmarking and feed consumption, into the historical perspective of early but unsuccessul push technologies such as pointcast. he concludes that this time the attempt is likely to succeed:

Interestingly, none of “The Changing Web” businesses that I have mentioned in my little history lesson have become a meaningful part of the web services landscape. I think that’s about to change for several reasons.

RSS, search, tagging, web 2.0, and peer economies are all coming together to make “The Changing Web” more important, more accessible, and more monetizable. (..) Peer economies, or the architecture of participation, or whatever else you want to call the user part of the equation is going to play a big role in harnessing The Changing Web for commercial applications.

social search, web 2.0, tagging, peer economies, RSS, social networks, folksonomy, citizen journalism, collective intelligence – there are dozens of buzzwords flying around in the moment. silently these concepts – all of them driven by substantial numbers of pioneer users – have begun to transform everything from digital life to traditional media. so in case you are setting up a business even remotely linked to digital media make sure you take into account what’s going on, it’s probably the biggest revolution since google has gained its current dominance seven years ago. and like with google it’s not going to be a big bang this time either. just my 0.02.

it has been long known that google avoids to manually tweak its search results but rather uses specific cases to tweak their algorithm – or should i say algorithms, as like all successful web-application-driven companies they constantly improve quality by comparing live data from synchronously deployed variations of algo and interface.

now finally a well kept secret has been disclosed by an anonymous unfaithful – how exactly google evaluates different algorithms: they recruit people from all over the world who compare and rate search results based on algo variations on (nothing to be seen there for normal people), from their homes. see also this flash movie.

if you are interested in in-depth detail read the small text on these screenshots. the second one for example seems to suggest that google is working on a database of query refinements that they – as i’d guess – eventually will suggest on results pages, like in “try adding XYZ to your search“. (via nico)

dear google, i appreciate that you support stemming (at least in english), so i’ll find e.g. plural when searching for singular – but please, please don’t show me results for “wordpress window upload” when i search for “wordpress windows upload“. even searching for “windows” (with quotation marks) doesn’t help, i have to explicitely exclude the singular form (although this might hide some potentially useful results from me..).

you talk to me a lot normally (“did you really mean..”), why don’t you ask me something like “we have included ‘window’ in your search – ignore it“?

update: just found out there is a way to override stemming – put a plus before the word: “+windows“. google doesn’t expect everybody to guess that right, do they?

yahoo just announced yahoo mindset, giving searchers the possibility to separate commercial from informational queries, just as i have suggested last year. wow, i like it. i also like the slider that is used in the interface. related: sliders are the new drop-downs

mark fletcher, founder of bloglines, explains how google and yahoo (with google’s personalised-homepage and yahoo’s “my yahoo”) misunderstand RSS and fail to create appropriate interfaces to it:

As many people have found out, the My Yahoo metaphor of a customizable page displaying static information doesn’t scale. It may have worked in the mid-1990s. But in this particular century, with millions of blogs and other sites of interest, you need a different interface paradigm to deal with all that information.

My Yahoogle doesn’t track what information you’ve already read, and what bits are new. So, each time you visit your My Yahoogle page, it takes time to scan the page to see if there’s new information. This is a complete waste. If you only show new things, the amount of information that needs to be displayed decreases greatly. There’s less information, and it’s all new. It’s a much more efficient way of dealing with many information sources.

Another flaw in the My Yahoogle model is the idea of placing everything on one page. Besides forcing the user to become a web page designer (should I place this information source in the right corner, or left?), this again reduces the number of information sources that can be followed, to a number that can be reasonably placed on a single web page.

while i think bloglines’ interface needs to be improved in various ways (their clip, blog and search features work poorly) bloglines understands what makes RSS-feed-interfaces useful and google/yahoo simply don’t.

bloglines is to google in RSS what google was to altavista in search, seven years ago. does anybody remember altavista?

happy google-guessing

May 18, 2005  

it’s always en vogue to predict what google does next. recently i’ve spotted these predictions:

my own guess? google will build a strong RSS search engine and a web-based feed-reader. at least that’s what i would do if i was google.

update may 20th: seems like the portal-prediction comes closest for now, as marissa mayer just declared fusion as google’s main strategy: “We’re incorporating feeds from just a few other sites today, but we envision being able to accept any standardized feed very soon.”

gene smith proposes in his post “search tagging” the seemingly logical extension (or anticipation) of the recent folksonomy-hype caused by and into the area of search. while social search might indeed be the next big thing in search i think – contrary to IA-guru louis rosenfeld, whom i admire – there are some fundamental flaws in gene’s concept:

Search terms are tags on an URL, based on clickthroughs.

seems to be obvious at first glance but give it a closer look: tags would thus be applied to URLs by search engine algorithms, with the user only playing a minor role in judging the relevancy of the snippet on SERPs. machines applying tags is not really the classic definition of a folksonomy.. so at least a feedback-cycle would have to be closed to reflect the relevance of the query to the URL, for example with the help of the google toolbar – and i’m not sure if that would be sufficient to create a really useful taxonomy. besides that clickthroughs can easily be manipulated by search engine spammers.

Search history is shared. Search terms and selected results are shared in the same way shares tags and URLs.

that’s where the problem lies. while it would be incredibly useful to access other people’s searches this usefulness will cause the multi-million-dollar SEO-industry to quickly find ways to fake truckloads of users that would sneak their carefully designed doorway- and affiliate-pages prominently into your (ex-precious but now useless) tag-pages. by the way: exactly this can and will happen to as soon as it’s commercially interesting enough.

Search terms and results selection help improve search results. (I wonder if anyone’s doing this now?)

google does click tracking on a very small sample of result pages, for quality assurance (can sometimes be seen by the they use). they clearly state however that they don’t use the data to give clicked pages a boost (sidenote: wouldn’t be sure if they same was true for data from the google toolbar..), to avoid search engine spammers producing clickthroughs automatically. so good idea theorectially but absolutely not feasable due to spammers, again.

Exploration and recommendations. Users can explore tags, URLs, users and their visited results. For each search they see weighted recommendations (“People who searched for ‘celiac disease’ also searched for…”) and recommended links based on others’ searches.

they only way i can see that happen is within trusted networks. i imagine a closed system of mutual approval of users (including maybe “friends of friends”, to achieve a bigger sample) would work, and keep spammers locked out.

Ad hoc social networks. No adding people as contacts or joining networks.

while i do think that ad hoc social networks work best in most cases they are also most vulnerable to spam. as the search engine industry is – together with email – the most affected victim of spam, i’m quite sure this model wouldn’t work here.

despite everything said i’m quite sure dozens of googlers are thinking hard about cooperative search in this very moment. keyword sharing is just a tiny step away from their existing feature search history, the “only” problem is spam.

any developer out there feeling like developing a prototype using the google API? i would be pleased to contribute concept and specification.. ;-)

screen shot how SE would look like with genres
the best idea to enhance search experience that i’ve read about in years: clustering search engine results into document genres, by peter merholz from adaptive path. (somehow related to the idea to separate commercial from informational queries i had once ago.)

for further insight on document genres and how they can be useful in information architecture see the talk (pdf!) peter has held at this year’s IA summit. very interesting.

update: link to pdf corrected.

why web services rock

April 11, 2005  

screenshot (scaled down)stunning. recently google launched google maps, the best map application on the web, now also with satellite images. still to be launched outside the US though.

now a guy, paul rademacher, takes google maps and craig’s list (an ugly yet useful classified-listings-site that is highly successful in the US and has been puchased by ebay recently) and mixes them together to a stunning real estate site.

as far as i can see he grabs housing listings, parses them with the google API, reformats them as google maps and displays them inline on his own site. this is why open APIs really rule, so cool.

learning for site owners: let your audience re-use your contents and let them re-use your services, think business case but also think indirect effects, think viral marketing, think grassroot innovation and think ‘why not’ instead of ‘why’. if your contents and services are useful you’ll be flabbergasted by what the public will do with them, when openly available. just like when someone creates the world’s most useful real estate service in his lunch break, using your data. figure out how to benefit from that, not how to avoid it. (via

update apr. 23: tutorial for the techies among you

Common misspellings: Farnberger, Fahrenberger, Farenberger, Fahnberger, Fahrnleitner, Fahrngruber, Fahrnberg.