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

I Blew It On Facebook

By - August 31, 2009

facebook limit.pngWell, I knew this day would come. I’ve been ignoring friend requests on Facebook for a month or so because, well, my longstanding friending policy has backfired, and I’m now at my “friend limit” of 5000 (well, 5003, to be exact). This limit has been much discussed, and I’m not sure I can add anything to what has become a timeworn dialog. It is what it is, and to be honest, I think 5000, upon reflection, is way too high a number. It probably should be around 500, if not 256 or something. Because, let’s be frank. No one has more than about 100 real friends. The rest are…well…possible friends. Colleagues. Strangers and interesting looking people you might want to meet someday if you ever travel to Bangalore. And…in my case…

facebook limit 2.pngWell, my case is certainly not unique, but I’ll tell the story anyway, if only to have a record of it in the Database of Intentions so my great great grandchildren can chuckle about it someday. (OK, so my three kids can chuckle at it now).

So back in 2005 or 6, I’m not sure when, I joined Facebook. And a bunch of folks starting friending me, folks I might have met at some point or other, I wasn’t always sure. Every so often – say every 25th or so ‘friend’ – I’d see someone I recognized instantly. An elementary school buddy or a work colleague. But due to my somewhat unique profile in the web space – I have been lurking around these particular parts for nearly 25 years now – any number of people who I didn’t know asked me to be pals.

Now, I don’t think too hard about what it means to be a semi-public person in the rather small pond that is the web space, but I do have one pretty hard and fast rule: If you can avoid being an asshole, what’s the point of the doing the opposite?

So from Day 1 on Facebook, my policy was pretty simple: I accepted every friend request that came my way. I figured it was quite kind of these real people to seek me out and ask to connect, and who knew where this platform might go? By 2005, nearly 50K folks had signed up for my RSS feed, and wasn’t Facebook sort of a similar platform? Well, not exactly, but I think with Twitter my point has been made, somewhat. But I digress.

My “don’t be a dick” policy served me well for several years. Folks friended me, some of them turned out to be pretty cool (they’d show up at events I promoted, they bought and critiqued my book, they cheered me on as I tried to make FM a success, they visited Searchblog when I had a new post). Sure, I recognized I was not your typical Facebook user – I was leveraging the service more as a platform for my work than a network of real friends, but that was OK. The service would figure out what to do with me at some point, right? After all, I wasn’t alone.

But upon reflection, I totally screwed up in how I use Facebook. Buried in there somewhere are groups of folks I really do want to connect with in the way Zuck and co. meant for me to connect. And I Just Didn’t Deal.

And now, by all anecdotal accounts, I have to migrate my friends to a “Fan Page.” Like I’m Budweiser, or Coke, or MIA. Which I’m not.

No wonder I like Twitter so much.

But I’m resigned to fixing my Facebook world. At some point. Really.

Meanwhile, I’m really sorry to the folks I couldn’t friend before I got cut off. I promise to figure it out. But honestly, it’ll take me a few days to do it. And I’m a little short on a few open days.

What do you all think I should do? Facebook doesn’t exactly make it easy to figure out how to migrate to the world of “Fan Pages” from the world of “5000 Friends.”

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A Preview: This Year's Web 2 Program (Newly Added Speakers!)

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web 2 09.pngI may have been “on vacation” over much of the past month, but as usual, I was working, and part of my work was framing out and filling in the program for the sixth annual Web 2 Summit. Tim O’Reilly and I had a very hard job trying to top last year’s program, given it featured Lance Armstrong, Al Gore, Edgar Bronfman, John Doerr, Jerry Yang, and so many more.  

But I think we’ve managed to top it. Pasted below is a note we sent out recently with an overview of the program. But even since then, we’ve had a couple of pretty major new additions, both from the world of government and policy:

– Aneesh Chopra –  America’s first ever appointed CTO will join us this year, in conversation with Tim O’Reilly (for Tim’s take and a video of Chopra, click here). A charasmatic figure and proven leader, Chopra is charged with developing national strategies for technology investments – overseeing the U.S. Government’s $150 billion R&D budget.

Austan Goolsbee – Chief U.S. Economist, member of the Council of Economic Advisers, serving the executive office as staff director on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) – an outfit established within the Department of Treasury charged with analyzing and understanding the state of our financial markets, banking and commerce systems in order to inform decision making around economic policy. Between the CEA and PERAB, Austan is working to fix America’s economic standing both domestically and internationally. No small feat. (See his interview with Jon Stewart here).

More on the rest of the program:

Day one covers broad ground — opening with an in-depth conversation with Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast — and moving into a series of powerful High Order Bits and discussions around government policy and healthcare. Then Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, will share his thoughts before our dinner Q&A session with maverick Mark Cuban, hosted by ModernMom CEO and Dancing with the Stars champion Brooke Burke (Mark had his own stint on Dancing With the Stars, as you may recall…).

After kicking off with morning workshops, day two features insightful one-on-one conversations with Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo!, and Qi Lu, President at Microsoft, who’s leading the recently announced partnership between the two companies. Later in the day, media gurus will discuss the future of their industry, including Chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. of the New York Times, CEO Dan Rosensweig of RedOctane, and CEO Richard Rosenblatt of Demand Media.

Mid-day we’ll check in with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, then launch our new High Order Ignite program — a session of dynamic, rapid-fire presentations that highlight ground-breaking and viable technologies that may well change the world. After a focused session on sensor and augmented reality applications, we’ll wrap up the day with Twitter CEO Evan Williams.

Last, but definitely not least, our third day will include conversations with the CEOs of Intel, Adobe, AOL, and Jon Miller, head of digital for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. We’re also bringing back our famed Teen Panel, where we’ll hear from the generation that will most shape the future success or failure of our industry’s efforts. And in a manner more fitting than we could have planned, we’ll close our conference with the man who started it all — Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

And those are just the highlights. Let’s not forget the slew of new speakers we’ve added including:

Erin McKean, CEO of Wordnik. (An API for language? Why not?!)

Sundar Pichai, VP at Google. (Responsible for Chrome OS, Google’s pointed response to Windows.)

Steve Schneider, Program Director at WestEd. (Walking the talk, Steve has plans to launch the first-ever standard for technology literacy across the U.S. by 2012.)

Cynthia Warner, President of Sapphire Energy. (If Sapphire’s biofuel plans scale, we have reason for hope in the world of energy.)

If you’d like to come to the Web 2.0 Summit, let us know by requesting an invite. I have discounts for Searchblog and Twitter readers (ping me here or jbat at battellemedia dot com), and I really look forward to seeing you October 20-22 at the Westin San Francisco!

It's CrowdFire and Outside Lands Time!

By - August 27, 2009


I’m getting psyched up for Outside Lands‘ second year, and the return of CrowdFire, an FM/Intel/Outside Lands joint back and better than ever. CrowdFire is a service that aggregates fan photos, videos, tweets, and more, and lets anyone play with the database we all create as we experience great live music.   

The cool thing is, the best stuff we upload or make will end up all over the main stages and video panels all over the festival and featured on the site itself.

To stay in touch with what’s up at Outside Lands and CrowdFire, follow @crowdfire and @osl on Twitter, and Here’s the details from the team that built the site:

Crowdfire, powered by Intel, enhances the OutsideLands experience with crowdsourced multimedia goodness and expands the festival beyond the fences and into the online world. Head over to the Crowdfire kiosks at the festival and upload your pictures and video to be shared over the festival screens. Then visit to relive and re-imagine the festival fun. Get the inside scoop straight from the artists and the audience with live Twitter streams before, during and after the festival (#crowdfire). Crowdfire brings it all together for a festival experience unlike any other.
The music is going to be amazing: Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, MIA, Band of Horses, Tom Jones, Modest Mouse, Black Eyed Peas, you name it. Come and join or see it vicariously via CrowdFire!

Is Google Going After Mortgages? It Already Has.

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home mortgage google.png

The NYT asks today: “Is Google Entering the Mortgage Quote Business?”

The story notes that in a lawsuit between two mortgage-lead businesses, Lending Tree and MorTech, Lending Tree claims that MorTech is providing its technology to Google, so that Google can compete with Lending Tree.

Does this mean Google is getting into the mortgage business?

Of course it does. And … of course it doesn’t. Because Google already owns the market.

Google is in the lead generation and arbitrage business. It has been since the birth of the auction on AdWords and the spread of syndication through Adsense. Google makes billions on arbitraging leads. And very few markets are as rich in lead generation cash as the mortgage business.

So, in a way, Google already is in the business. And always will be. The company admitted to the Times that it is testing a new approach to this lucrative market that optimizes returns, and why not? Do a search for Home Mortgage. There’s a lot of demand out there for leads. Google smells an opportunity to cut out a middle man, and increase margins.

Reminds me of a certain company back in the early 1990s…

Yahoo's New Search

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It feels a bit odd to be writing that headline – “Yahoo’s New Search” – given the company’s deal with Bing/Microsoft. But Yahoo seems intent on declaring its independence with regard to search, even as it sells its asset and audience away to its newfound partner.

Yahoo does retain, in the deal, the right to innovate on top of Bing results, and I guess that’s where this announcement is pointing – noting that Yahoo has been innovating in search UI and plans to continue to do so. I’m talking with the Yahoo folks next week and will have more on their plans then. But it strikes me as potentially conflicting to the deal for Yahoo to be innovating in UI on top of Bing, as one of Bing’s strengths is its innovation in UI….

Give Me Your Data, Said the Spider to the Fly

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Very interesting news yesterday about Google Adsense and competing ad networks. From ClickZ:

Google plans to open its AdSense network to other ad networks, potentially giving the already huge ad net access to display ads flowing through countless other networks. The firm yesterday said it will allow networks to bid via auction to have their ads appear on AdSense partner sites, like an exchange. Google is vetting several ad networks for certification, but would not name any of the networks. If accepted into the program, the networks would receive payment if their ads win the auction to appear on AdSense sites. The firm said networks will be able to target contextually or by placement. The company suggested the offering will help boost publisher revenues by increasing competition for ad placements.

Now this can be seen a number of ways. First, is this an admission by Google that they do not have good enough display advertising inventory and/or relationships? Maybe, maybe not. Seems to me more of a statement that Google considers Adsense more of a platform for advertising, rather than a network into itself. Second, if you ran an ad network, would you want to do this? Well, ad networks tend to optimize for the most money. If Adsense gives them more money, they just might want to do this. Third, what about the data? Google will learn an awful lot about what is going on with each network once they plus themselves into the Adsense hivemind.

And in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Remember what happened with search? AOL, Netscape, Yahoo, and many others fed the Google search beast until Google had all the data and therefore the best search engine. When it came time for renegotiation of those search deals, who had the upper hand?

It’s all about the data, to my mind.

Don't Be A Fan Platform Hater

By - August 19, 2009

Regarding this story in the New York Times:

With Bloggers in the Bleachers, Leagues See a Threat to Profits

(and related, my post on “Don’t Be a Player Platform Hater“):

I have such a rant in me on this topic but I simply cannot write it now, I’m way too Supposed to Be On Vacation. But suffice to say, you can do two things if you “own content” – like, say, football games (yep, that’s content). One, you can cut it all off and hoard it. Or two, you can be the oxygen in the ecosystem. The first allows you to profit but it kills your long-term community ecosystem and prevents, entirely, your product from growing as your supporting community wants it to grow – because in essence, you are refusing to allow your community to have a voice and point of view about your product. It’s YOURS, and you’ll LIKE IT THE WAY I WANT TO GIVE IT TO YOU!

The second makes you a crucial, life giving element of an ecosystem, but one that is as dependent on that ecosystem as it is upon you. Yes, air is unbreathable without oxygen, but then again, it ain’t air if it’s ONLY oxygen.

Anyway. Read this piece, and really think about it. Cutting fans off from blogging (or Tweeting, since there are ads there now and will be more*) about the games they go to because they might be getting paid by SBN, or AdSense, or whoever? Are you F’ING NUTS?

Pull your head out, sports guys. It’s way better to be the oxygen in the ecosystem. It’s a bigger profit opportunity, for one. And it’s just a way more fun approach to business, one that feeds more than just your bottom line.

OK, back to vacation.   

*PS, oh yeah, and Facebooking, because, shit, Water Cooler is on Facebook, isn’t it?! Yikes, thousands of people talking about football AND WE’RE NOT MAKING MONEY ON IT DAMNIT! And doesn’t Facebook show ads next to fans’ personal pages? Time to get me a cut of that revenue too, I hear Facebook is making hundreds of millions!

** PPS I am NOT saying that businesses who make it their business to cover and profit from covering sports should not have a revenue model that pays content owners, far from it. I AM saying that content should have an API – and a set of business rules around use of that API. Duh.

All Business Starts With A Community

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small biz starts with a community.jpg

Today I was on my way back to our house after dropping my kids off to camp, and I decided to stop by a local cafe for a quick coffee-n-chat. Now, in August, “our house” means a century-old family place on an island, an island that rather pugnaciously refuses to allow large chain stores to set down roots. So it’s fair to say that this island is sort of a Galapagos of small business. There are no Mickey D’s, no Safeways, and no Starbucks. It’s all locally owned – nearly every single “year rounder” who lives here is a small business person.  

The local cafe I stopped by is a hangout – a place where the community comes to eat and drink coffee, to gossip and share information, to learn the latest, to connect. It’s a social network in its truest sense. It’s driven by content – the conversations and knowledge of the staff and customers, and it’s driven by community. Commerce is a by product of the two.

But the commerce is not limited to just the coffee and egg sandwiches on the menu. Not by a long shot. Like nearly every other cafe and community restaurant on the island, there’s a bulletin board, and everyone who has something to promote puts up their business card or their flyer. And you know what? It works.

I love this picture. If you really think about it, it tells you just about everything you need to know to succeed as a business in the digital age.

Social Media Is Important, The Video

By - August 18, 2009

Hey, I really like the soundtrack. And it’s f*ing true as well.

My beef with this is this simple statement, about 3:42 in. “Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in how we communicate.”

True, to a point. What it really is, is the release of how we already communicate, but now at scale. It’s not a shift in *how* we communicate, it’s a step function in our *ability* to communicate. There’s an important difference there. One could argue that means a fundamental shift, but such a statement can be easily misinterpreted as meaning “something totally new in how humans think/work/communicate”, and I think that’s not quite right. It’s us, squared.

(Special thanks to @dveneski)