free html hit counter November 2008 - John Battelle's Search Blog
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Working on A Piece…The Shift from Static to Realtime Search

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Just a placeholder for a piece I’m trying to bang out tonight, ideally. I’ve been ranting about it to various folks all weekend long, has to do with the inflection point of being able to ask this question:

What are people saying about (my query) right now?

Yep, it has to do with Twitter, but also a lot more than that. Stay tuned…

The Inbox, Part Two: Facebook Has An Ambient Awareness Problem

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I do this too much – post something short, as a note to myself and all of you that there is way more to say, then end with “I’ll say more in the next post.” Then I get busy and forget about that “next post” thing, and start posting on other stuff. What I really meant was, “in my next post on this topic.”

Hope that clarifies things.

OK. So what was I talking about when I wrote: “Facebook had a “malfunction” today that reset all my email notifications. All of a sudden, I am getting Facebook notifications in my email inbox about all manner of things.

A conspiracist will claim this was on purpose. I’ll explain why in the next post”?

Well, as many of your comments pointed out, both on Twitter and here, one could argue that this particular malfunction really helps Facebook – I’d wager that many folks, like me, turned off nearly all our email notifications way back whenever we set up our original Facebook account (mainly due to all the stupid app spam), and that has led to some problems when it comes to dealing with upstart, competitive services like Twitter.

What do I mean by that? Well, let’s focus on Twitter. Every time someone new follows me, I get an email from Twitter. It’s pretty much the only way I can find out who’s joining my “social graph” on Twitter, and it drives a lot of traffic back to the site (to find out who the person is, read their tweets, then wander around and see what’s going on, read replies, maybe tweet a bit, etc). Facebook, on the other hand, keeps your new friends in a queue you can check in on every so often, and all the platform app spam (“You’ve been bitten by a Vampire!”) led me and I suspect a ton of others to turn off nearly all email notifications. Even when I do get notifications in email (I only got notices when someone “friends” me), I don’t usually go back to the site -I know I can deal with that in batch mode later.

In short, Facebook is not a network driven by ambient awareness, it’s more batch mode driven. And I have come to this startingly obvious conclusion: Social networks driven by ambient awareness will win. And, by the way, so will search solutions that can deal with ambient awareness – AdSense ain’t there (yet – more on that in later posts, but that is a big big deal).

Because Twitter is an ambiently aware network, mail from Twitter means a lot more to me than mail from Facebook. And given that folks at Facebook have been staring pretty hard at Twitter lately (a $500mm deal was lost last week), well, as I said, a conspiracy theorist might find it far too coincidental that Facebook recently reset everyone’s email notifications.

Having cleaned up the platform mess and focused developers on applications that add long term value to the Facebook ecosystem (more on that here), it is certainly time for Facebook to start acting, well, more like an ambient network. That means, among many other things, communicating again in a meaningful way via email. I have found that I have not re-configued my email settings since they were reset for me, and further, I have found that the emails coming from Facebook are pretty useful – for example, I never knew, before, when someone posted on my wall, or sent me mail inside Facebook mail. Now I do.

This is another step toward Facebook doing what Mark Zuckerberg talked about in our interview at Web 2 earlier this month – pushing Facebook out of its own domain and into the web itself. The issue, however, is keeping it two way – I can make Twitter my Facebook status front end, but I can’t Tweet inside my Facebook status or see Facebook responses to my Tweets inside Twitter.


"Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly"

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That’s the last line of a Times piece over the weekend on the increasing size of our digital footprints. Hmmm. But it is the basis of the American constitution. Read the Times piece, which, if you’ve read The Search and watched the “Web Meets World” meme (that was the theme for Web 2 this year), will not be new ground, but is a good overview of the issue right now.

Will It Float?

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Another Yahoo search rumor, as Om puts it – this one following the general outline of my suggestion way back when that search be spun off and run as an independent company with backing from Yahoo and Microsoft.

This comes from the Times of London, it seems that in UK, reporters are making a habit of, well, not doing any reporting. The use of passive voice makes my head spin. Listen to this:

It is thought that Jonathan Miller, ex-chairman and chief executive of AOL, and Ross Levinsohn, a former president of Fox Interactive Media, have been lined up to lead the new management team. Senior directors at Microsoft and Yahoo are understood to have agreed the broad terms of a deal, but there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

“It is thought”? “Are understood to have agreed”?

Good lord. I’m not a full time reporter any more, but man, this one smells.

Aha! It's the Inbox!

By - November 29, 2008

Facebook had a “malfunction” today that reset all my email notifications. All of a sudden, I am getting Facebook notifications in my email inbox about all manner of things.

A conspiracist will claim this was on purpose. I’ll explain why in the next post.

Google Is Mortal

By - November 25, 2008

I reported skeptically on this issue earlier, but let’s call a spade a spade. Google used its contractor workforce to quickly scale without having to spend on permanent employees, and now, it’s using that same workforce to cut back costs. I’ve heard from a fair number of “laid off” contractors, in particular in Europe, and the reality is simply that: Google’s use of contractors outstripped the company’s ability to leverage them to the bottom line, and something had to be done. How much of this has to do with slowing growth? Hard to say, but it’s also hard to say that growth was not slowing. The world is in crisis, after all.

It’s a smart move by Google (control operating costs without hurting core employee base), but from the point of view of the folks effected, it’s layoffs nevertheless. Google most likely will grow past these cuts in its contractor workforce in the coming year(s), but the cutback is just that, a cutback. Cnet has more here.

Let's Put This Myth To Rest: Social Media and Marketing

By - November 24, 2008


My latest rant, up on the Amex Open Forum Blog. From it:

The debate is as old as the web itself – what is the role of marketing in a medium that is so clearly driven by interaction and communication? I have a lot of thoughts about this topic, but a recent Ad Age article roused me to address one of the most irritating myths out there: That somehow social media and marketing don’t mix.

Titled “P&G Digital Guru Not Sure Marketers Belong on Facebook,” the article quotes Ted McConnell, Manager of Digital Marketing Innovation at P&G in Cincinnati. The money quote: “What in heaven’s name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?”

As I read on, I became certain that the article, which has gotten a lot of attention given P&G’s profile in the marketing world, took what was clearly McConnell’s nuanced view and gave it all the subtlety of a Michael Bay film.

“Social networks may never find the ad dollars they’re hunting for because they don’t really have a right to them, said Ted McConnell,” the article begins. It then goes on to lay out the reasoning behind such an assumptive lead: McConnell doesn’t like random banner ads, and Facebook’s targeting, which purportedly solves the issue of randomness, leaves him cold. Given those two things, Ad Age drew what I must say is an extremely lazy conclusion: Advertising on social networks doesn’t work – look, a senior guy from Proctor says so!

Well, I’m here to call bull on this myth. And I’m pretty sure McConnell would agree with me.

Let’s break it down. To begin with, the article makes this easy assumption: Social networks are “hunting for ad dollars.” That presumes a very traditional approach to media – that social networks have traditional packaged goods media assets (like, say, a television show or a magazine), and are out “big game hunting” – IE, trying to sell proximity to those assets to “big game” like P&G.

But as I’ve argued (over and over and over) social media “assets” don’t look like packaged goods assets, and neither should social media marketing. As McConnell rightly pointed out, you can’t barge into the middle of an intimate social situation, yell “buy my stuff!” and then leave. A brand that does that will certainly be remembered – as an clod.

Really Guys. "Gossip Baiter"?

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Those who know me know I tend to prepare for my discussions with leaders onstage at Web 2. You may recall during my conversation with Mark Zuckerberg, I asked whether Facebook was going to buy Twitter. A round of blogospherian eye rolling ensued. “It’s the sort of “speculative fun” that could give tech bloggers a gossip-overload headache for weeks to come” said Cnet.

Honestly, I rarely ask questions that don’t have a point. As Kara reports today, turns out there were talks – and they were going on right when I asked the question. So far, nothing has come of them, but they got serious enough for a number to be thrown around – $500 million. Cnet was kind enough to give me a bit of credit here. Thanks. The interview I did with Mark is above.