free html hit counter January 2009 - John Battelle's Search Blog

We Must Remove Pesky Humans From This Equation

By - January 31, 2009

Themwebsis Busted

This morning reports came streaming in that “Google was freaking out.” From a Slashdot thread:

“It looks like for the moment at least, all Google results are failing the malware checks and being listed with a warning ‘This site may harm your computer,’ including all pages from Google themselves. Users trying to visit pages at search results will only be able to proceed via manual manipulation of the search result link to remove the Google click-through (which is also broken). Until Google fixes this bug, it looks Google web search is useless.”

Other reports claimed that Gmail was also affected, from a mailing list I monitor:

Just fyi, the problem also affected any mail coming into Gmail, wrongly marking emails as spam and putting a big red warning flag on

them…..So check your spam folders.

Screenshots here.

Google’s Marissa Mayers, who I am sure did NOT have a pleasant Saturday morning, acknowledged the screw up:

If you did a Google search between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST this morning, you likely saw that the message “This site may harm your computer” accompanied each and every search result. This was clearly an error, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our users.

What happened? Very simply, human error.

A NY Times blog covers it here.

My favorite commentary out there on the boards?

Skynet – er, Google – has become self-aware and has deemed that the entire Internet is harmful to us power sour – I mean, humans, and is protecting us for some reason it has not divulged yet…

Gotta love them Internets.

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Don't Spank the Cat (Spank the Cat, Baby)

By - January 30, 2009

So I write a longish post, thinking out loud, and tweet it. Then as an afterthought, I tweet that my cat was bad today, and I had to punish it. Do I spank the cat, I asked? Well, the response was pretty funny. Twitter is connected to my Facebook account, and most likley the longest comment thread ever on my “status” ensued. Within a minute, I had two status updates: One of my tweets is about the future of publishing, business, culture, the economy. Heavy shit. The other is about spanking a cat.

Which one do you think won in terms of comments and engagement? Yup. Lesson learned. When looking for traffic, spank your cat.

(And by the way, fix your permalink lameness, Facebook. It keeps you from being part of the real web).

Update: This is NOT ME spanking the cat! I mean, really. The video is hilarious, but it’s a bit….twisted too.

(Credit, Oil, IT, and) Paper Ain't Free, So Don't Waste It.

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Book Open-9 (Second in an ongoing series, part one here)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the world of “print” lately. I’m not alone. Everywhere I look, another story declares newspapers and magazines dead or dying. I disagree that the essence of what print has stood for will die (in short, storytelling), but I do agree that the structures around that storytelling are ending a lifecycle. And that ain’t all that’s ending.

Besides coded communication (ie, words, grammar, language), print has been fueled on one big premise: Waste paper. Somewhere in the late 18th or 19th century paper became so cheap that entire economic systems could be built that presumed it was actually beneficial to use more of it than was needed. Paper was a revelation – there’s probably a great story to be written comparing the cultural and economic impact of paper to that of the web (it’s probably been written, and I missed it).

Take the book publishing industry, for example. As a recent Time piece on publishing put it:

Publishers sell books to bookstores on a consignment system, which means the stores can return unsold books to publishers for a full refund. Publishers suck up the shipping costs both ways, plus the expense of printing and then pulping the merchandise. “They print way more than they know they can sell, to kind of create a buzz, and then they end up taking half those books back,” says Sara Nelson, editor in chief of PW.

In a world where there was no alternative to paper-based communications, it made sense to waste paper. We all know that world has changed completely – instead of wasting paper, we now waste processors, pixels, and (to a certain extent) bandwidth to communicate with each other.

The Time piece does a good job of explaining how this shift has impacted book publishing, and has a very Wired-like take on the results: in essence, book publishers will emerge as packagers of high-value print products that have been validated by the web’s frothy jungle of collective intelligence:

Not that Old Publishing will disappear–for now, at least, it’s certainly the best way for authors to get the money and status they need to survive–but it will live on in a radically altered, symbiotic form as the small, pointy peak of a mighty pyramid. If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devices, with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness. (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they’re called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses.

I think Time is onto something here. I recall when Wired first came out. We shouted our Digital Revolution credo from the rooftops, and were often greeted with a smirk from reporters covering our new magazine: “If you are so digital, why did you make a paper magazine?!”

Our answer was always the same: If you’re going to create something using paper, you have to justify it. The era of print as the presumptive delivery vehicle for information was over. From now on, if you’re going to consign something to paper, you can’t presume to waste it. In fact, you have to do the opposite: You have to add value to it to the point of it becoming an object people want to literally touch (hence, our approach to design).

Entire economic models have been built on the premise of free paper. Expensive printing presses, expensive distribution, expensive union reporters, hell, even paper is expensive once the advertising that made it seem like a marginal cost has migrated to digital. Those models are dying. But the narratives paper once supported aren’t dying. They’re exploding in variety, and accelerating in speed.

Hence the thesis behind FM: this new digital world of publishing needs media companies that act much as book publishers did back when paper was cheap and authors began writing novels to exploit this new reality. The best of the web’s “authors” are indeed “crowd-sourced” – their ability to create and nurture significant communities sets them apart and makes them valuable. On the web, an “author” might be someone like Heather Armstrong at Dooce, but it also might be a platform or application like Mixx or Graffitti, or a “band” like Boing Boing or Silicon Alley Insider. As readers, we vote with our attention to and engagement with a site. In short, traditional print-based models of publishing may be dying, but publishing, as a business, has never been more vibrant.

It might suck to be a book publisher or a newspaper company right about now, but that’s the reality of creative destruction and the cycle of business and culture. And it seems entirely clear that what is happening to the publishing industry is also happening to its industrial-era cousins – banking, energy, transportation, even the PC industry – all of them based on wasting something that once seemed a plentiful commodity – credit, oil, capitalized IT budgets.

There’s a theme in there somewhere, and I hope to keep teasing it out. But it’s Friday, and it’s 5 pm. Enough for now.

Last Day for Web 2 Summit Early Bird

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Web2009 Temp Logo

Today is the last day for early registration discounts on this year’s Web 2 Summit. The event is slated for Oct. 20-22 in SF, at a new venue. If you went last year, or are an alumus and are on our list, you got an email with a code you can use for the discount, which is significant. If you want to go but don’t have that email or code, ping me: jbat at battellemedia dot com, and I’ll get you hooked up. You can always request an invite as well, I review these personally and will make sure to take care of you if you mention you came via Searchblog.

We are finalizing the theme and speaker lineup for this year, we have a very clear idea of where we are taking it – and I think you’ll find what we’re doing intriguing. Last year I think we successfully navigated the massive issues roiling the markets, and pivoted toward a theme of “Web Meets World” which proved quite apt, I think. I can’t divulge who is speaking this year, yet, but trust me, I take my role as Program Chair very seriously. This will be a very, very interesting year.

Comcast and Tivo: The Model Is In Ads as Service

By - January 29, 2009

Yesterday at the NAPTE show TiVo CEO issued a call to action to the television business: get a new business model, or suffer the same fate as the newspaper.

I think he’s right, and I’ve got some ideas about what that model should be. I’ll be posting more on this, but the short overview is this: Television should respond to the exhaustive knowledge it has of our viewing habits, and create a model that trades value for engagement. I sketched this out a while back in my post “TV and Search Merge” but that was more than four years ago. A lot has changed, and I’ve learned a lot more about how marketing works. So look for another Friday sketch, tommorrow, outlining my more considered thoughts on the subject.

Yahoo Beats Expectations

By - January 27, 2009

I wonder if Carol Bartz made this rabbit a condition of her joining – Yahoo beat estimates, despite showing a $300mm+ loss in the fourth quarter.

Reports of her first earnings call were generally positive.

Twitter and the Borg

By - January 26, 2009

180Px-Borg Queen 2372

I wonder what Kevin might say about this random tweet that came out of me: “Is Twitter the logical next step to a Borg hivemind? First books. Then blogs. Then Twitter. Then … Borg? ”

What I was on about was a habit I’ve notice I’m getting into – I’ve timeshifted my reading into another (more accelrated) phase. I read Twitter a few times a day, blogs every other day, and print a few times a week. I used to read blogs all day, and magazines/print a every other day. I remember when I did this with blogs, everyone was saying to me “how on earth can you keep up?!” But it was not hard at all, it was valuable to me, it fed my work and my life.

What happens when Twitter shifts to real time? Could we handle it? Could it happen? A microconversation in our heads, on all the time? I’m not sure we could. It is, however, what the Borg is all about, no? The delta between individual and social closed to no more than a blink? Very sci fi. Hmmm.

Google's Repricing of Options

By - January 23, 2009

Google yesterday announced it would offer a repricing program for its options holding employees, a move that acknowledges and addresses the reality that Google’s stock has sunk, like most others, well below strike prices. Google plans to take a $460 million charge for the move.

The WSJ picks up on the news and offers a perspective (the post is behind a pay wall):

…options are also meant to align interests with shareholders — so if the price soars, both benefit. If the price drops, both suffer. If Google is going to reprice when things go wrong, it should also limit the upside to employees. It would be easier simply to pay bonuses instead, tied to corporate performance, with a portion in stock that vests over time to aid retention … when shareholders do add up the cost of options, the answer can be shocking. Albert Meyer, president of money manager Bastiat Capital, calculates that since 1995, Cisco Systems has spent $30 billion — or nearly half its free cash flow in that period — buying back stock issued as a result of employee options exercises.

Update – more from Adam here. Good overview of earnings, notes only *100* new employees in the quarter, that is a major shift (on a base of 20K) and this:

Google is transferring almost half a billion dollars in wealth from shareholders to employees, and for what ….? Motivation and retention, says Google. This a well known farce, as old as the Valley, which tells itself first that it offers generous stock options as a form of incentive and then, when share prices plummet, moves the ball so its employees, whose incentives apparently didn’t work (as if the stock price were under their control) can be re-incentivized. Retention? Would someone please tell me where the average Google employee is going to go right now?

In conclusion, and as the headline says, Google is in good shape. Not fantastic. But plenty damn good. It’s also becoming more and more like other technology companies in so many ways.

The Easy Part

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Ad Age does a good job reviewing and comparing Google and Microsoft’s earnings.

Google posted a 17% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter compared with the year-ago period and, in what appeared to be an attempt to temper expectations for a more difficult first quarter, called that the “easy part.”

eTech – The One to Go To

By - January 22, 2009

Et2009 Etech Logo

Look, I am partners with O’Reilly on Web2, so I am biased. But for my money, the best event out there to get a real sense of where the tech world is going is OR’s eTech event, happening in March in San Jose.

I go to connect to the people who I know will be changing my world, sometime in the not so distant future.

It’s just really, really good.

So this year I asked them to give me a discount code that I could pass along to all Searchblog readers. Here it is: et09jbat. Use it when you register here and get 10% off. Trust me. It’s worth it.

Update: The discount is now **30%** – thanks eTech!!