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P&G Digital Hack Night – Moving the Conversation

By - March 12, 2009

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I could not make the event, but FM had two participants. Chas summed it up this way: “the format is like a reality TV show: A contest among groups of digital marketing experts, Apprentice-style, in an effort to tap social media tools to sell Tide t-shirts for charity.”

It was a fun night, from what I’ve heard, and $100,000 was raised for charity, which is really cool.

But I really liked what Peter Kim said about how it was an important event not just for charity and team building, but also for P&G as a company, learning to become more social. Just like with Comcast, here’s another example of a massive company learning new tricks. From Peter’s post:

At the end of the evening, P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard remarked that in the future, all employees should get involved in activating connections similar to what had just been witnessed.

The significance of that idea is staggeringly huge. This is a company with 138,000 employees starting to realize the value from having all of its constituents connected and activated. They’re also learning about new tools to change the process of engagement. Events like “Digital Night” help recalibrate the company’s mindset.

P&G is taking steps to make social business a reality.

Sure, it also meant a massive promotion for Tide. I don’t have any problem with that. I got shirts for all of FM’s staff. And it felt good to do it.

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Google Selling History as Behavior, But I Like The Controls

By - March 11, 2009

This is very interesting (from the NYT):

Google will begin showing ads on Wednesday to people based on their previous online activities in a form of advertising known as behavioral targeting, which has been embraced by most of its competitors but has drawn criticism from privacy advocates and some members of Congress.

Perhaps to forestall objections to its approach, Google said it planned to offer new ways for users to protect their privacy. Most notably, Google will be the first major company to give users the ability to see and edit the information that it has compiled about their interests for the purposes of behavioral targeting.

I’ve been writing about this for years. See my post on a “Data Bill of Rights.”

Way to go, Google.

Google post on this here. And the policy post is here.

Can Google Find Its Voice?

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Googlevoice

This is going to be a very big deal. Or forgettable.

I am not sure which.

I had a conversation with a NYT reporter about this today. (Story here, but I was not quoted). It made me think. First off, this product was not launched by Eric, Sergey, or Larry. So who knows if this is a Big Deal Inside Google, or Pasta Against the Walls?

You all know how much I love the idea of the Conversation Economy. It’s where my nose is taking me these days. So the concept of Google boiling the vast Oceania Vox is very, very compelling.

But then again….I find it hard to trust Google is really serious about this market.

For example, how many real live customer service reps does the company plan to have tasked to this product? That, to me, is a Very Important Question.

It’s the essential human question that drives Google. I bring it up all the time. Community. Media. People. How do you make people scale?! How does Google, a company driven by algorithms and scale, find its Voice?

It can’t be all algorithms. Things that Work Perfectly Because You Get How To Make It Work Even If Your Non Technical Pals Can’t don’t scale. Things that Really Do Work Without Customer Service can (this is Google search, or Amazon, or….etc.).

I just wonder if Google Voice is one of those disruptors. If it’s effortless, if it works without having to call someone to help me make it work, well, it’s a huge, huge hit. But this is telecommunications. I have a hunch it’s harder than that.

I for one very much want it to work. I love the idea of Google Voice.

I just wonder about the execution.

(By the way, compare Google search to Twitter search for “Google Voice.” Innaresting.)

Watch the Aardvark

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Avark

Just off the phone with the folks behind Aardvark, a (relatively) new service that will most likely be the talk of SXSW this week. I’ll have a longer riff on the company shortly, but suffice to say, I find it fascinating. The service rides between your social network(s), search, and the web, cleverly leveraging each to provide a platform for asking and answering the kinds of questions for which traditional search usually fails: the kinds of questions you ask a friend (or a friend of a friend, the real sweet spot here).

Many things make this company worth watching, its backers, its model, and its approach. Particularly noteworthy to Searchblog readers: a large group of the founders are from Google.

More soon.

Another Conversational Economy Milestone

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Found in this Wired piece on Comcast:

Thanks to Famous Frank (here’s Searchblog’s interview), Comcast began thinking about going even further. The weekend that the company published its response to the FCC—outlining how it managed its network and how it planned to change—one of Roberts’ lieutenants suggested something even more radical: having ordinary company engineers go on message boards to answer questions. It was the kind of proposal that violated every tenet of the old cable code of business, and the matter could be settled only at an executive board meeting on the 52nd floor.

Roberts, sitting with his back to the window, listened to both sides. Then he declared it was time to be a bit more transparent. He finally got it. He was turning a page. “I think we should do this, but we all have to have thick skins,” he said. “People are going to vent. But that’s all right.”

Comcast is joining the conversation, and that is a major, major shift for Big Business. It won’t be an easy shift, it’ll be way easier to go back to old habits. But it’s encouraging to see Really Big Companies making the transition to the Conversation Economy.

(Hat tip, @TheJames)

"Search Is A Pencil"

By - March 09, 2009

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I will never forget that quote, from Alta Vista founder Louis Monier, as he bemoaned the devolution of his creation into Yet Another Portal. He was devoted to the idea that Alta Vista would do one thing – search – and do it well. But Alta Vista was instead turned into a bawdy image of Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Excite, and all the other portals of the late 90s.

And along came Google, which by 2000 had gained a reputation as the Best Search on the Web. And Yahoo, eager to appropriate all things Best on the Web, was more than happy to give Google what Netscape had given Yahoo in the mid 90s: a font row seat to Becoming the Next Big Thing.

Oops.

This is all a throat clearing to Think Out Loud about Twitter and Facebook. (Like I’ve been doing anything else lately.)

The folks at Facebook are not ignorant of web history. As many of you have noticed, and I have posted about earlier, the relationship between the two companies is not exactly bidirectional. Sure, your tweets can show up as Facebook status updates. But can your Facebook status updates show up as Tweets? Nope.

Why not? Well, if you could use Facebook as an instance of Twitter, well, that would feed the Twitter ecosystem, would it not? It’d validate Twitter and drive Twitter adoption and traffic. Just like Yahoo’s adoption of Google did back in 2000-2002, or Netscape’s adoption of Yahoo did back in the late 1990s.

Facebook has realized it has an ambient awareness problem. And instead of cutting a partnership deal, Facebook first looked to simply buy Twitter. We’ve seen that movie before, a few times – Yahoo tried to buy Google before eventually buying Inktomi and Overture, for example.

Unfortunately, Twitter said thanks, but no thanks. In response (and quite quickly, to its credit), Facebook last week announced, in essence, that if it can’t buy Twitter, it’s going to outcompete it.



But I’m not sure that’s going to work. Why?

Because Twitter is a pencil. Facebook, on the other hand, is Photoshop. There’s so much you can do with it, the pencil function gets lost. It’s not a primary use case. (Yet.)

Back in 1997, Yahoo was a pencil to Netscape’s Photoshop. In 2000, Google was a pencil to Yahoo’s Photoshop. Today, Twitter is a pencil as well.

Will history repeat itself? That, I think, is one of the more interesting questions of the year.

I’m still looking for comparative statistics to help answer that question – the relative size and growth rates of each party at the time of the deals would be really, really interesting. Any researchers out there who want to take a look with me?

Pretty Please, Give Me A Web Time Axis

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Tonight I’ve wanted to find out information detailing the backstory of how Google initially powered Yahoo search back in the early 2000s. I know, I know, it’s in my book, at least, it’s in the notes and interviews I did for the book, but damn, that was a long time ago. I am lazy, I want to simply ask Google. But I can’t date-range my search, dammit. If I could, I’d ask for results for “google powers yahoo search” from 2001-2004.” That would give me a treasure trove of early blog posts, Cnet articles, and the like, and I’d be off to the races. But instead, the damn time axis is polluted by whatever has been most popular in the past few months.

Give me a Web Time Axis, gosh dang it!

Pizza Joint Employs Conversational Jujitsu

By - March 07, 2009

This is priceless: (via Boing Boing)

At San Francisco’s Pizzeria Delfina, they know how to own their pain. Rather than wringing their hands over Internet sourpusses who give them one-star Yelp ratings, they’ve printed up tees with excerpts from the most scathing reviews (“This place sucks”) and given them to the staff to wear.

I call this practice “conversational jujitsu” – take the negative force of complaints, embrace them, and use them to your advantage. Just wait until really large companies start to do this. Then we’ll see remarkable change in this economy.

More as … I write the book.

The Conversation Is Shifting

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Search, and Google in particular, was the first true language of the Web. But I’ve often called it a toddler’s language – intentional, but not fully voiced. This past few weeks folks are noticing an important trend – the share of traffic referred to their sites is shifting. Facebook (and for some, like this site, Twitter) is becoming a primary source of traffic.

Why? Well, two big reasons. One, Facebook has metastasized to a size that rivals Google. And two, Facebook Connect has come into its own. People are sharing what they are reading, where they are going, and what they are doing, and the amplification of all that social intention is spreading across the web.

This is all part of the shift from static to real time search. Social is the fundamental element of that shift. What are YOU doing? What is on YOUR mind? Who do YOU want to SHARE it with?

Social search has been predicted (and funded) for years. It’s finally happening. The conversation is evolving, from short bursts of declared intent inside a query bar, to ongoing, ambient declaration of social actions. Both will continue, but it’s increasingly clear why Google’s obsessed with Facebook (and Facebook with Twitter). And they are not alone.