free html hit counter September 2008 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Dear Google: Either Drop PageRank, or Give It More….Granularity

By - September 29, 2008

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I’m a seven, I think. Danny was too, but now, for some reason, he’s a six. Mike’s an eight. Google, natch, is a Ten (one of only two that Amit could find).

PageRank is the unofficial, and official, and semi-official, arbiter of value on the web.

And it’s just deeply broken – not because there isn’t data that informs all of our collective rank. But because we have no idea what that data really is, or how it’s combined to determine value in the Google economy.

So please, Google, either give us more granularity, or just go dark and don’t tell us anything.

Oh, and please, Larry Page, just as a tenth anniversary present, can you pretty please make BackRub for real? I’d really love to have it. So would a lot of others, I suspect.

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Congrats, SpaceX

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Elon Musk will be at Web 2 this year, and his SpaceX (one of three companies he’s started since leaving PayPal, including Tesla and SolarCity) today had its first successful launch. More at BoingBoing Gadgets….

The Web 2 Launch Pad: Deadline Is This Week, Submit Your Company!

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It may seem like a long way off, but the Web 2 Summit is in less than six weeks – right after the general election. And this year’s Launch Pad, where we honor six of the best companies in the space, will close its application process this Friday. (The original deadline was Weds, but it makes sense to give folks till the end of the week.)

Launch Pad is a bit different this year, and I’ve heard anecdotally that folks are not sure if they should be submitting their companies because A/ They think they have to be looking for funding or B/ their companies don’t match what we’re looking for in terms of industry. So to clarify:

A/ Launch Pad companies are reviewed and judged by leadings VCs (Khosla Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, NEA, Omidyar Network, Panorama Capital, and Sequoia Capital), but there is no requirement of a “funding need.” The goal is to honor six great private companies, not six great private companies who need funding.

B/ We are indeed looking for companies in a particular sector, one we call “Web Meets World.” It’s a pretty broad category, but it falls into two rough buckets:

1. Companies working in alternative energies, social entreprenuerialism, microfinance, developing economies, political action, renewable technologies, and the like (we’ll be particularly interested in where these companies display significant cross over with the web, of course, but this will not be required.)

2. Companies addressing where the Web literally meets the world: cloud computing-enabled mobility, mapping and geolocation, sensor networks – anything where the Web and the real world intersect.

We’ve already got a pretty big group of companies who have applied, but I’m eager to have as many as possible join the process. There is no fee to enter, the Launch Pad is sponsored by VCs involved in the program. So if you’re at a company working at the intersection of the Web and the World, please apply! The link to do so is right here. I look forward to seeing you at the conference, it’s really shaping up to be the best in our five year history (more on the program and speakers here).

The Case for Local Conversation: Saving Corbet's Hardware (Latest Open Forum Post)

By - September 28, 2008

Corbets (image credit Marin IJ)

I’ve just posted my latest missive on the American Express Open Forum blog, where I Think Out Loud about my local hardware business, which just might be forced out of business. It’s titled “Think Local, Act Conversational – It Just Might Save Your Business.” From it:

Corbet’s Hardware is my neighborhood hardware store, it’s something of a local legend. Let’s see what happens when I put it into Google (I omitted the apostrophe, as most folks do).

Interesting. First up is a link from “”, which appears to be some kind of a shellac company (no, really, a company that makes shellac). Corbet’s probably carries their products – the Zinsser site lists its distributors – but man, what on earth is that doing being first? Clearly, Corbet’s has not exactly joined the conversation economy quite yet.

Put another way, the very first link for Corbet’s is not Corbet’s own website (the store does not seem to have one), it’s some random supplier of Corbet’s. This is not a good thing.

Second up is a very nice profile of Corbet’s in the local paper. Third is another link from the paper about the store moving. A credit to the store, for sure. But it’s not really very conversational (for more on why I think “conversational” is so important, read this).

Fourth is a link from “”, which looks like some kind of listings directory (or more cynically, an Adsense honeypot). Nothing really useful for a potential customer of Corbet’s – nothing conversational or particularly trustworthy…..

….But imagine, if you would, that Corbet’s had a blog, and used that blog to talk about its business. The folks at Corbet’s could post about weekly specials, tips on home improvement, best approaches to pest control, and all the stuff that brings customers into the store. Oh, and by the way, it could leverage all its built in good will to drive its customers toward the Larkspur City Council, who, in the end, will determine whether or not Corbet’s will continue as a business – if Corbet’s doesn’t get that zoning change, it can’t afford to stay open. Ouch!

Given how sparse and poorly connected the first few links for “Corbets hardware” currently are, it’s clear that such a blog would come in first, and possibly second, third, and fourth, in any Google search. Add a Twitter account, and you’re nearly guaranteed to be a major force in any web-based conversation around your business. (In fact, I’d be willing to bet that within a few weeks, this blog post may well rank in the top ten for a search about Corbet’s…).

In short, by joining the conversation, Corbet’s would get a chance to shape it. And by shaping it, it just might ensure its future. Which leads me to ask: Has your business joined the conversation? You might consider doing so, before it’s too late.

Read the whole post here

On The Google Hive Mind: There Is a Center

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Yesterday Danny posted a typically thoughtful piece on Google’s success, on the occasion of its ten year anniversary. Titled The Google Hive Mind, the piece addresses an age-old question about Google: does it have a master plan?

Danny argues that, in essence, the company does not, and runs through a convincing number of examples that support his thesis.

But as with every argument, I think there’s another side. Danny writes:

Rather than follow a rigid top-down master plan, the company’s direction and success has been shaped by decisions often taken independently of how they’ll benefit the company as a whole. But collectively, those decisions DO form a master plan, a hive mind that dictates what the company will do.

I don’t agree with this. I think Google has made scores of moves calculated by centralized senior management to benefit the company as a whole, AND, at the same time, has green-lit scores of other projects which, taken as a whole, are in no way centrally planned. Examples of centrally planned moves? The AOL deal. The Dell distribution deal. Chrome. Gmail (I disagree with Danny that this was not a centrally planned move. Same with Checkout.) Book search (Google knew it was in for a legal fight and it engaged because it felt it was in the company’s, and culture’s, best interest.) YouTube (very much a central decision). Ummmm….going public.

In fact, the going public piece is perhaps the most important one of all. Google has to keep growing, and it has to keep shareholders happy. Growing on a large base is hard, so it’s best to try as many new potential big hit markets as you can. That means taking some bets on stuff that might fizzle (Orkut, Knol) and others that might really tick off your best partners and customers (Orkut, Knol, Checkout, and many more).

I think Google has a central plan, and Danny’s Hive Mind is a key part of it. As Danny writes:

Perhaps success on the fast moving internet means having a hive mind, a fuzzy business logic where you look more at products individually rather than how they contribute to a master plan. Or maybe that’s what you do if you want to be a giant on the internet, offering more than one product.

The hive mind is a great idea, but it’s not the whole story of Google. When it comes to key decisions, I think the hive mind that really matters is the triumvirate of Sergey, Larry, and Eric.

Google's Project 10^100

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This will be interesting to watch:

To mark our 10th birthday and celebrate the spirit of our users and the web, we’re launching Project 10^100 (that’s “ten to the hundredth”) a call for ideas that could help as many people as possible, and a program to bring the best of those ideas to life. CNN will be covering this project, including profiles of ideas and the people who submit them from around the world. For a deeper look, follow along at Impact Your World.

The site is here. I wish we could see the ideas streaming by and vote on them. It’s too opaque right now. But this is VERY Web Meets World, which is the theme of Web 2 this year, and Larry Brilliant, the head of, will be our first speaker. Good timing.

Matt Cutts Spam

By - September 26, 2008


I’ll admit it, I have a Google Blog Search RSS feed for “John Battelle.” Come on, don’t you?

Ok, anyway, what I’ve noticed is that at least 10-20 percent of the hits Google Blog search reports back to me are spam, usually very popular stories in which I have been mentioned that are republished automatically by long tail Adsense and affiliate scrapers. It’s part of the web ecosystem, whatever.

But this one story where Google’s Matt Cutts, who works very closely on issues of spam and blogging, responded to my email about Twitter nofollow, is off the charts. Not a day goes by that some spammer (or five) isn’t republishing this story (example).

Check out a Google search for the first half of the first sentance of Matt’s post. Google has found 318 instances of Matt’s post.


Not Everybody. But Passions Do Run High…

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Fortune gave this piece a Diggbait title:

Everyone Hates Comscore (I am quoted)

But the truth is more like this: Everyone Wishes They Shared the Same Reality.

The promise of online marketing is not yet delivered upon. Meanwhile, we have an arbiter that often seems disconnected from reality, at least from the point of view of website publishers.

There’s alot of work to be done to bridge the gap, and it’s not all Comscore’s fault. I am looking forward to my interview with Comscore founder Gian Fulgoni at the upcoming CM Summit in October, where we can really suss some of these issues.

I will also be interviewing Twitter (and Blogger) co-founder Evan Williams, as well as Laura Desmond, the global CEO of Starcom (one of the largest media buyers in the world) and David Rosenblatt, who runs DoubleClick.

Yahoo Formally Unveils APT Ad Platform

By - September 24, 2008

I’ll grok this soon, but is anyone else tired of claims of “revolutionizing” advertising? From AdWeek:

Yahoo! executives are not setting low expectations for the company’s forthcoming advertising platform, likening its effect on advertising to the advent of color television and introduction of the DVR.

At a press conference to unveil the newly renamed platform, now called Apt, Yahoo!’s top executives promised a sea change in how advertising is bought and sold across thousands of Internet sites. Yahoo! will introduce Apt widely in 2009, with its 784 newspaper partners using the system by the end of this year.