free html hit counter January 2007 - Page 2 of 7 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Wow. A Reason to Think About Hillary

By - January 28, 2007


I have to admit, I’m skeptical about Hillary as a presidential candidate. Why? Well, she kind of rubs me the wrong way, and I’m eager to have a Democrat in office, and I fear that the bad guys (ie Rove) will make mincemeat of her when it comes time to really get down to brass tacks.

But while at Davos I had dinner with a good friend of hers (I can’t name names as I don’t have permission to do so), and she encouraged me to be open minded. OK, I’ll be open minded. So then, I saw this. The original Wired News story:

The issue of digital-era privacy did not make it to the top of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s legislative to-do list at the Saturday launch of her presidential campaign. But for those who look, the New York Democrat has clearly staked out her positions on the esoteric subject, and they’re sending electronic civil libertarians’ hearts a twitter.

Clinton, the presidential front-runner among Democrats in way-early polling, addressed electronic privacy issues at a constitutional law conference in Washington, D.C. last June. There she unveiled a proposed “Privacy Bill of Rights” that would, among other things, give Americans the right to know what’s being done with their personal information, and offer consumers an unprecedented level of control over how that data is used.

Now, those of you who keep track of my rants, know that this is a big issue for me. Huh. I’m listening now…

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The Best Technology Writing

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Book Open-7

Pal Steven Levy is hoping you all can help him figure out the best tech writing of 2006 to add to a collection for a book. I’ve not written a lot of long form stuff this year, as I did mostly interviews for Business 2 and shorter stuff for the site, so I encourage you to find what you love out there and help Steven. But if you feel like logrolling your pal Battelle, I am fond of these: Conversational Media parts one and two.

I know that I owe you all parts three and four, that fact weighs on me each day. I would like nothing more than to write. Sigh.

Name That Tune

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Neat idea, a search engine that can find music when you hum it. It’s called Midomi.

Cnet reports:

Launching in beta mode on Friday (this past week), Midomi allows people to search for a song by singing, humming or whistling a bit of the tune. The site then offers search results that include commercially recorded tracks or versions of the song recorded by others who have used the site. The technology also lets people listen to the exact section of each of the results that matched their voice sample.

(thanks, Scot)

While I Was Away…TellMe

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TellMe has launched the first step in what may well be a very important new era in mobile search – Tellme by Mobile. TechCrunch covers it here. I got to play with this in early beta, and it is really impressive. A caveat – TellMe is an FM advertiser, and I agreed to give them my unvarnished input as part of TellMe’s FM program (they have a feedback forum on the new product, a very good idea, here).

As I opined for three years, I’ve been waiting for a mobile app that finally uses voice to drive search on the go. This could be it. For now, it’s just the equivalent of Yellow Pages 411, but if this works the implications are clear – the underlying voice recogniction technology paired with very Tellmemobilesmart structured search could be a killer app. It’s a little odd getting used to a voice-command-based local search experience, and the system does not always work, but then again, neither does text-based search.

But here’s why I think TellMe is well positioned – this java app is carrier independent. Let me say that again – carrier independent. Now that is a breakthrough.

Won’t someone like Yahoo or Google just buy Tellme, and swallow it? Could be, but the price will be dear. The company has nine-figure revenues, is profitable, and has a very respected leader in Mike McCue, who I have stayed in touch with for over a decade. Mike has really stayed true to his original vision of voice-driven telephony (you most likely use his stuff if you call information, which I am sure you do). He’s seen the ups and downs of the past ten years, and he’s built an impressive set of IP assets, including a huge database of phonemes (basic word parts) and related associations. His company is clearly on an IPO track – another thing that makes it unique – and I for one am thrilled for him.

China, Premium Ads, Panama, and Miserable Failures (A Round Up)

By - January 27, 2007

I’m on the plane home, and I’m punchy. Davos affords you about three to five hours a sleep a night, what with the endless networking events, jet lag, and my general inability to sleep anyway. I may be telling you things you already know, but then again, they bear repeating. This past week, Google and Yahoo did a few things I found interesting.

Chinese-Dragon-Green-17-Large-Tm-1First, while at Davos, Google’s senior management owned up to screwing up in China (I was at the event where this was discussed). I spoke to a very large customer of Google’s, who shall remain nameless, who knows the fellow who was tapped to run Google’s media business there. That fellow, Johnny Chou, lasted about a year and left in mid December. (Hey, Johnny, if you’d like to talk, you know where I live). Loyal readers will recall my recounting of Google’s tortured decision to enter the China market. Clearly this subject continues to haunt the company.


Second, Google made it possible for publishers to carve out “premium” advertising spots on their sites. Does this matter? Well, not much when it comes to CPC advertising, after all, with CPC it’s all about performance, and publishers will put ads wherever they perform best. But when it come to branding and CPM ads, placement is *everything.* Watch this space, literally. Google is priming its publisher network for a major push into branded, site specific sales. That’s where the big money is, the non direct-response money that is moving from TV and print.


Third, Yahoo announced earnings, which were not very interesting (they met estimates and then lowered expectations. Kinda like a blind date your Mom might have set you up on). But more interestingly, they announced Panama would be ready a full month early (though they emphasized that would have no effect on earnings whatsoever). Still and all, that’s a good sign. Yahoo is well and truly positioned to be the comeback kid this year. That’s not to say it will happen, but…

Miserable-FailureAnd lastly, Google released a new algo that helps kill Google Bombs. Sigh, no more miserable failure. Well, it’s not much fun to kick a fellow when he’s down anyway. From Google’s post on the subject:

The next natural question to ask is “Why doesn’t Google just edit these search results by hand?” To answer that, you need to know a little bit about how Google works. When we’re faced with a bad search result or a relevance problem, our first instinct is to look for an automatic way to solve the problem instead of trying to fix a particular search by hand.

Recall, of course, what Google has said previously (NYT) about Google Bombs: Craig Silverstein, Google’s director for technology, says the company sees nothing wrong with the public using its search engine this way. No user is hurt, he said, because there is no clearly legitimate site for “miserable failure” being pushed aside.

Moreover, he said, Google’s results were taking stock of the range of opinions that are expressed online. “We just reflect the opinion on the Web,” he said, “for better or worse.”

Google v. Second Life? No Contest

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One of the big buzzy facts of Davos life this year was Second Life. Reuters was busy interviewing folks for the Second Life audience (yeah, OK, I did it), and nearly everyone at Davos who was NOT in the internet industry was busy talking it up as important (and many who were as well, but for different and deeper reasons).

Now, another buzzy fact of Davos life was Google. Eric Schmidt co-chaired the event this year (they select a few industry leaders to do so), and Larry and Sergey plyed the floors like regular folk (well, regular folk with a 767 and billions in net worth, but at least at this event, they were not the only ones).

This led someone to ask me – will Google, with Sketchup now firmly part of the empire, take a run at Second Life? And will it win?

Others are also asking this question (TechCrunch, Benchmark partner Michael Eisenberg). But I think it’s the wrong question. Second Life is all about play, and fantasy, and alternative realities. I’m going to guess that Google’s version is going to be all about reality, and mashing up AdWords, Google Earth, Sketchup, and the Yellow Pages/Google Local. The two will live quite nicely one next to the other, and most folks who use one will probably not see using the other as even vaguely competitive.

Scoble to MSFT: Buy Krugle

By - January 26, 2007

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I keep hearing about Krugle from developers. They tell me it rocks for looking up stuff. Need shopping cart code? Search for it on Krugle. Now compare that to Google/Yahoo/MSN.

Now, I can hear you now “developers don’t matter to search engines.”

Oh, yeah? When I visit Google there’s a huge plasma screen that shows every Google search done in real-time (it only shows that a search was done, not what the search was about). Everytime I look at that screen Redmond, WA does more Google searches than most other large cities in the world and does more Google searches than the entire continent of Africa.

Hint: there’s not much in Redmond except for Microsoft. So, what are all those Microsofties doing on Google?

Previous coverage.

Google Integrates YouTube Into Google Video

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Hate to say I tol’ ya so but…from an email from Google PR:

Google’s strength — and its history — is grounded in search and in innovating technologies to make more information more available and accessible. YouTube, meanwhile, excels at being a leading content destination with a dynamic community of users who create, watch and share videos worldwide.

Google search results already include links to content that’s hosted on YouTube. Starting today, YouTube video results will appear in the Google Video search index: when users click on YouTube thumbnails, they will be taken to to experience the videos. Over time, Google Video will become even more comprehensive as it evolves into a service where users can search for the world’s online video content, irrespective of where it may be hosted.

The screen shot at left show a search for Ninja videos, the top link is a YouTube hosted episode. The url:

From my predictions post:

3. Google will integrate YouTube into its main services. YouTube will be promoted via the “video” tab on Google’s home page. YouTube will keeps its name and domain, but the business/sales end will be interchangeable.

The Bummer Of Davos…

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Is that nearly every session I attended where I got that unmistakable “Shit I have to post on this” feeling was, unfortunately, off the record. Last night Larry and Sergey sat down with Charlie Rose for an intimate chat at a private event. Off the record. Before that I spoke to a room full of Media Governors – the folks who run just about every major media company in the world. Off the record. Before that, a gathering of influential editors and journalists from all over the globe. Again, off the record.

You’ll have to trust me that the insights, conversations, and information I gathered will certainly inform the musings I post here. I just can’t be specific to the who, what, and where. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Lots of comments take me and the WEF to task, and I need to clarify. Most of Davos was in fact on the record, I was noting that the stuff where I found the most insights tended to be off the record. And I am investigating whether some of what I heard was in fact subject to looser “Chatham House” rules where just the speaker cannot be identified. Overall, I do defend the practice of getting leaders together from time to time in an off the record environment, it allows them to share experiences openly and learn from them. I will be posting more thoughts on all of this over the coming week.

Reed to Launch B2B Vertical Search Portal

By - January 25, 2007

Reed Business Information is launching business-to-business vertical search portal.

Reed is using proprietary categorization, entity extraction and taxonomy management software from Teragram, provider of multilingual natural language processing technologies. The software automatically organizes content from hundreds of Internet sites into a vertical search engine.