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Friday, July 22, 2005

Image Search Knows No Country


Think about it. If you're a search buff, how often would you stumble across a site in a completely different language?

Latin to the rescue. Everyone (and no one) uses Latin.

Image search works by leveraging user tagging or by inferring the content of images based on whatever words the publisher assigns to them (or nearby text or tags). It would probably improve if a multilingual component were added (seamless to the user).

Anyway, I typed a search for "acer palmatum blog" and then tried Google Image Search for the same term. Using this latin name was unwittingly a way of getting results that seem to come from an international community of users. I stumbled on this amazing French gardener's blog (if you go to the home page instead of the "lien permanent" to this one particular post, it takes about 10 minutes to load but is quite amazing).

Search innovators should be thinking about this kind of thing. How to show relevant results (or images) even across languages and cultures?

World peace could depend on it.

Either that, or the south of France is invaded by several thousand Canadians fed up with shivering in the dark.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Deja Vu

Another 10th anniversary: this time, Lycos celebrating ten years of Tripod. Also, sister site Angelfire is "number one with teens and tweens." Who were mostly in diapers when Tripod launched!

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Why I Hope People Will Read Seth's Book: "We Refrain from Hyperbole and Make No False Claims"

There are certain business books out there that you really worry about, because they do such a good job of unlocking certain secrets that you know your business might suffer if others get ahold of it (notwithstanding C.B. Macpherson's, Tim Sanders', and Herbert Marcuse's hopes that we'll all adopt "abundance thinking," reject the standard view of "modernity/liberalism as trade-offs," and turn into libidinally rational "lovecats"). There have been a couple I purposely haven't reviewed on this site because they are handbooks that explain how to build a certain type of business. Why tell people how to compete with you?

Then there is other powerful knowledge that you wish everyone knew about, like all the sensible work being done today on usability and web standards. I guess it's just a bit over the top to be so competitive that you hope your competitors' sites will continue to suck. The powerful idea of a positive user interface experience overwhelms any selfish view that somehow your company will out-UI the others over the long haul. Sure, get a couple years' lead on your competitors. But expect that they'll eventually iron out their foolishness by investing in that side of the biz.

Godin's new book, All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World, is knowledge anyone in my business hopes will percolate out to at least our immediate environment: companies trying to do a better job of inspiring customers to buy. "Liars" is a bit of a misnomer. Godin actually shows that the best companies tell a great story. The most successful people, period, have always told a great story. The backdrop of an evocative narrative is like the set for a feature film or Broadway comedy. I guess in showbiz they call this "production values." Without the backdrop, you're just a bunch of crazy kids doing improv. That won't work, unless that in itself is the story.

Many online marketers still don't understand that they need to tell any kind of story, let alone a great one. Godin marvels at the power of the story behind Kiehl's, which sells lotions and cosmetic products with insanely high markups. This is one of a few central examples in the book. For fun, while preparing to work with one of their competitors (to boost their online sales), I wandered over to kiehls.com. Now that site tells a story. Sure, you might be saying, but do their product pages convert? Sure, you'd want to understand how to make these pages compelling and usable, but it wouldn't be enough on its own. 38 bucks for sunscreen. If consumers are just shopping for a good deal, you have no hope of converting them. So it's that backdrop, that story, that conversion environment, that lays the foundation for a long-term business success.

With the right approach to myth-making (this doesn't rule out authenticity and basing your story on solid facts, as Godin stresses; in fact, he counsels talented myth-makers to use their power wisely), everything else falls into place more easily. Smaller companies can build on "little stories," like being in business for six years, or a physical location... anything is better than nothing. The power of telling authentic stories, for example, will be one of the things that really drives the growth of local search in the coming years. Very small companies will have ample opportunity to capitalize on their "touchability factor."

Certain master storytellers (liars in the good sense, because customers are complicit in wanting to believe there is something larger behind that pair of $200 jeans) can really clean up.

The challenge of doing this well is so great -- historically, the world has been divided into successful leaders and businesspeople who can tell great stories, and the failed ones who can't -- there is no risk in broad dissemination of Godin's powerful teaching. The more businesses work to create these value-enhancing stories, the easier it becomes for those assigned to specific marketing tasks to hit their targets. Why? Because your customers aren't rational (thank God).

Then there is always the counter-view that says that we're all immoral bullshitters who will likely burn in hell. A full review of Godin's book and some related works is forthcoming in this space (unless I'm lying).

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Internet Archiving Illegal?

A number of friends have been talking about the kerfuffle about the Canadian bill that would protect the copyright of web publishers against the archiving activities of search engines. Many have been forwarding the link to the CNET article and blogging about it. Most are outraged at this crazy Canadian attempt to make "search engines illegal."

Internet law expert Eric Goldman, though, suggests the article is misguided, because archiving activities might already be violating US law.

The article's sloppy title, "Cache a page, go to jail" is part of the problem. Search engines might coyly refer to "caching" pages when they are actually "archiving" them, as Goldman points out.

Caching is done on local machines or on ISP's servers in order to (for example) improve the speed of browsing. But such caching does not seem to break with basic browsing and copyright conventions.

Come to think of it, this makes intuitive sense. By allowing my site to be spidered by search engines, I give those indexes the right to point to my site, not to take and publish pages from that site. Google archives such pages, which is a great help when a page gets taken down, but there really is some question as to its legality. We all love the Wayback Machine, but do companies consent to having their content published by someone else? No. I realize that the content liberators of the world will say that this view is shortsighted, but I'm not talking about vision (and neither is Goldman), I'm wondering about what the law actually says.

It appears that Canada's proposed law is not so out of place with what is already on the books elsewhere.

Linking and archiving are two very different animals. One is directing people to content; the other is snatching up that content and making it available for your own potential business gain.

At the end of the day, though, it may prove difficult to prohibit archiving, since theoretically you could find many ways around it, like taking photos of every single web page in existence, and archiving those. Your Googles of the world are already out there taking photos of lots of stuff and figuring out new ways to "organize the world's information." Somewhere, there has to be a line between organizing information and violating copyright, though. Likely, the onus will be placed on copyright holders to put their content behind a protected wall, as if it were subscriber- or buyer-only material, if they want to avoid having it archived.

There are many gray areas in this realm, like with Amazon's "Search Inside the Book," and Google Video Search. I'm glad I'm not a copyright lawyer right now.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Google Typo, or Getting Ready to Drop the Price?

When you go into the interface for Google's new Site Targeting, you see a message that says:

Want more control?

You can set an individual CPM for any of these sites.

Example: site.com**1.25

--

However, if you try this, you'll get an error message telling you the minimum is $2.00. At the very least this is a glaring usability issue. But maybe they're preparing to drop the minimum to $1.00.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Again with the New Bottles... and Only $580 Mil!

Teen hangout MySpace.com kinda reminds me of Angelpod and Trifire circa 1998, which must make News Corp. into Lycos circa about-the-same-time... at least with regard to this purchase. Good background from Bambi Francisco, including mention of RagingBull.com founder Bill Martin's involvement in the growth path of this company.

Media conglomerate acquisitions of growing online communities have ranged from the modest (in 1998, Tripod was reportedly acquired by Lycos for a mere $58 million) to the stupendous (Geocities bought out by Yahoo for $3 billion, give or take a billion). The ones at the high end must be awfully encouraging to the ones at the "low" end.

It feels like we're in the middle of a VC-fueled cycle right now, one that's friendly to these kinds of growth plays. This is made more plausible when a real buyer like News Corp. shows up to validate these lofty valuations.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Speaking Engagement

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Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.

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