free html hit counter August 2009 - Page 2 of 3 - John Battelle's Search Blog

What's Up With Feedburner?

By - August 18, 2009

FburnerFail.pngFor the best few days, I’ve been trying to edit the settings in my Feedburner account – the RSS feeds service that was once so useful, but since its purchase by Google, seems to have languished. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve forgotten my password (though I used the same one for Feedburner as many other similar services), and the user name I thought I always used is getting bounced back to me as not recognized. I’ve tried nearly every single variation of a user name, password, and email address I’ve ever had, and none work. Without user name or email, I can’t retrieve my password.  

Now the fun begins.

Searchblog’s feed was moved, I think, to Google by the deadline of late Feb. of this year. My engineering group at FM did it for me, which was very kind. Given that the user name and passwords they used to do the move seem to not work anymore, we started looking for some kind of help – it’s sort of odd that while my feeds seem to work, no one can log in to manage them. I read through the FAQ, and it said that if I was an AdSense publisher, my feed would be there. I am, so I logged in, but there was no feed I could find. Odd.

SO I asked my crack engineering team to try and make sense of it. They couldn’t. Here’s Ivan’s response:

This is wild, the Feedburner site is like a labyrinth, I don’t see any way to contact a human. People in the forums are also complaining about inability to find any type of contact form. Dozens of recent posts in the support group of people saying they can’t recover their password to migrate to Google Account — no response from anyone.

It feels like a dead product.

Anyone have any ideas on how to fix this issue?

Beyond the irritation of a broken or non-communicative service, I’ve come to realize that Feedburner simply isn’t very useful to me anymore. Two years ago, when Google bought the company for $100 million, it was a crucial and growing service. I’d log in nearly every day. What value is it providing to them – or any of you – now?

UPDATE: A nice fellow from Google pinged me this morning offering to help. Thanks!

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On Using Search for Decisions

By - August 17, 2009

As part of BingTweets, an FM/Microsoft promotion blending the two services, I was asked to opine on the idea of how we use the web to make decisions. My first post has been up for a while but I managed to lose track of time and forgot to let you all know about it. I wrote a piece called “Decisions are Never Easy – So Far” – and have already written a followup piece, though that one is yet to be published. (And yes, I’ve asked them to make that picture smaller. Migod.)

From the first post:

If what you are looking for is a hotel room, a plane ticket, or something else in the “head end” of search results, plenty of sites aggregate tons of results for you. But as soon as you go a bit down the tail – like my example for classic cars – search becomes a pivot point for an ongoing and often taxing decision process. The opportunity, I think, is to figure out a way to support that process down the tail – saving us time, clicks, and frustration along the way. I see two paths toward that goal: one is creating applications on top of “ten blue links” which help me organize and aggregate the knowledge I process while pursuing a search query, and the second is making my searches social, so I can share the process of learning and learn from those who have shared – not unlike Vannevar Bush’s “Memex” concept.

When the second piece is up, I’ll post an excerpt here as well.

Google Search Share Declines

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Back when I predicted this in January, I recall worrying I was calling it too early. Now it appears the timing was about right. From Mashable:

…while Google grew from June to July, it still lost market share to its competitors – from 66.1% in June to 64.8% in July, a 1.3 percentage point drop.

From my prediction: 3. Google will see search share decline significantly for the first time ever. It will also struggle to find an answer to the question of how it diversifies its revenue in 2009.

There’s more to be said on that second point, revenue diversification. More on that after the summer break I’m supposedly on.

Caffeine: A Fundamental Rewrite of Google, A Shift to Real Time

By - August 13, 2009

Matt Cutts points to a video interview (embedded above) on Google’s Caffeine infrastructure update.

“It’s a pretty fundamentally big change” Matt says. What I’d like to know is why and in response to what changes on the web. Of course, the major changes in how the web works are clear: Real Time Search.

In this post (and/or this one) I said:

In short, Google represents a remarkable achievement: the ability to query the static web. But it remains to be seen if it can shift into a new phase: querying the realtime web.

It’s inarguable that the web is shifting into a new time axis. Blogging was the first real indication of this, but blogging, while much faster than the traditional HTML-driven web, is, in the end, still the HTML-driven web.

Part and parcel to this shift is the web’s adoption of Flash/Silverlight/Ajax – a shift to assuming the web works in real time, like an application on your desktop. That makes it damn hard to index stuff, because pages are not static, they are created in real time in response to user demand. This is a new framework for how the web works, and if Google doesn’t respond to it, Google basically will become relegated to a card catalog archive of static HTML pages. No way will Google let that happen…

(By the way, one of the reasons I was impressed with Wowd was exactly because of its ability to, at scale, track a new signal in the web – the signal of what we are actually doing in real time…as opposed to the signal of the link…but more on that later.

Matt was asked if Caffeine was specifically about Real Time, and he was not totally specific about this but it’s pretty obvious it is all about this shift.

Oh, and Matt says it’s not because of Bing. In one way, I agree. But let’s be real. Microsoft and Yahoo did this deal because Yahoo alone could never sustain the infrastructure costs associated with indexing and processing the Real Time Web. So in truth, Google did this because it had to, just like Microsoft and Yahoo did what they did because they have to. If you want to play, you have to get the infrastructure right.

Here’s SEL’s take on it.

Tell Me This Ain't Facebook, Er, Twitter, Er, Both.

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Google’s new iGoogle upgrades smacks of Facebook. Read this:

we’re excited to introduce social gadgets for iGoogle. Social gadgets let you share, collaborate and play games with your friends on top of all the things you can already do on your homepage. The 19 social gadgets we’re debuting today offer many new ways to make your homepage more useful and fun. If you’re a gaming fanatic, compete with others in Who has the biggest brain? or challenge your fellow Chess or Scrabble enthusiasts to a quick match. Stay tuned in to the latest buzz with media-sharing gadgets from NPR, The Huffington Post, and YouTube. To manage your day-to-day more efficiently, check things off alongside your friends with the social To-Do list gadget. Your friends are able to see what you share or do in your social gadgets either by having the same gadgets on their homepages, or through a new feed called Updates. Updates can include your recently shared photo albums, your favorite comics strips, your travel plans for the weekend and more.

Updates, Status Updates, Tweets….whathaveya. It’s all the same play – a social platform for connecting to others. More:

It’s developers who have really made iGoogle into the rich experience it is — growing our gadget directory to over 60,000 gadgets today — and we know iGoogle developers will help us quickly expand our collection of social gadgets. You can get information about how to build social gadgets for iGoogle on our developer site: We introduced these new social features recently to Australia users and are gradually rolling them out to users in the U.S. over the next week.

Developers developers developers developers….

Early July Data: Twitter Growing, but Slowly

By - August 12, 2009

twit comp. july 09.png

A month ago I posted that Twitter was back to strong growth after a weak month of June. I just took at look at the numbers for August, which you can see in the screen shot here (I’m using Compete’s data, but you can check out Quantcast, which is a “rough estimate” and has not posted any July data yet.)

Twitter is still growing, according to this data, but not at the breakneck pace of the past. Compete has it at 23.2mm US uniques, up just 1.25% from the month before. Visits are up 1.64% month to month. Most interesting to me is the breakdown of referral traffic: 11.44% is from Facebook (see below). Now that Facebook Lite move is starting to make sense….july twit referals.png

Facebook Lite?

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Multiple sources are reporting Facebook is testing “Facebook Lite” – what some are calling a Twitter version of Facebook. Mashable, RWW have more, TC got an official response from Facebook, which makes it sound like it’s not a Twitter competitor. Interesting. Reminds me of my prediction on the two companies back in January:

Facebook will build a Twitter competitor, but it will never leave beta and will ultimately be abandoned as not worth the time. Instead, Facebook will “friend” Twitter and the two companies will become strong partners.

There’s still time for this one to come true. If this is indeed a response to Twitter, it strikes me as a bit of an overreaction.

Update: Or maybe it’s not, given that Facebook delivers 11.44% of traffic to Twitter

Two Big News Events in Search: Google To Revise Its Engine, Facebook Launches Realtime

By - August 11, 2009

Facebook’s previously announced realtime engine has been released, coverage from Mashable:

Fast forward to today: Facebook just announced that it is rolling out the new Facebook search. With realtime search and FriendFeedFriendFeed in its pocket, Facebook is gunning directly for TwitterTwitter.

Also for Mashable, a story on Google’s “major revision” of its engine. I plan to dig into this one, as I sense it has a lot to do with crossing the infrastructure chasm to real time:

Secretly, they’ve been working on a new project:the next generation of Google Search. This isn’t just some minor upgrade, but an entire new infrastructure for the world’s largest search engine. In other words: it’s a new version of Google.

The project’s still under construction, but Google’s now confident enough in the new version of its search engine that it has released the development version for public consumption.

Don't Be A Player Platform Hater

By - August 09, 2009

lancetweet.pngI’ve been meaning to post a long-ish rant on the importance of celebrities taking control of their own platforms, but never gotten to it, in part because I’m not that enamored with the incessant selling of celebrity that occurs in our culture. Yeah, I sound like a grumpy old man, but I can’t help myself. It bums me out – not because I don’t like celebrities, but because the current approach strikes me as driven by short term thinking.  

If, instead, more celebrities actually used their fame to take control of their own destiny and build a platform for themselves, they’d last longer, be happier, and make more money – perhaps not as much all at once, but more over the long term. And what do I mean by “taking control of their own destiny”? Well, in a phrase, I mean “building themselves a platform through which they effectively communicate with, build, and deliver value to their fan base.”

Until recently, those platforms were controlled by others. But now, celebrities can roll their own. And that changes the game, if they chose to play.

Before I explain what I mean by that, let me state for the record that I believe the same is true for all marketing brands. But I get ahead of myself (more on what it means to build a platform for brands in a future post.)

Let’s start at the beginning. What, after all, is a celebrity? Well, if you do a Google Image search for the term, you’re bound to believe a celebrity is an attractive, well endowed woman. Wikipedia defines the concept thusly: “A celebrity is a person who is famously recognized in a society….There are degrees of celebrity status which vary based on an individual’s region or field of notoriety. While someone might be a celebrity to some people, to others he may be completely unknown.”

That last part is important when it comes to social media. I’ve noticed that the class of folks we might call “minor celebrities” have taken to social media far more quickly than those who Wikipedia calls “global celebrities.” In fact, the extraordinary embrace of Twitter by A-lister Ashton Kutcher (there, I wrote his name for the first time ever) serves as the rule proving exception – big time celebrities don’t often expose themselves in an honest dialog with their fans. Instead, they are handled. They are managed, marketed and controlled like packaged goods, sold through the supermarket aisle distribution outlets of sports arenas, movie theatres, network television, and arena tours.

And because they are treated as product by their managers, they are discouraged to do anything that might smack of honest dialog with their fan base – anything that might feel like “routing around” the manicured image laid out by the business of celebrity.

Case in point is the approach major sports leagues have taken toward both Facebook and Twitter. Recently the NFL and ESPN have banned or curtailed use of either Twitter or blogging or both. (As much as I appreciate ESPN’s product, I consider it to be a product of the leagues, not an independent platform for players. From their policy: “The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts…” Follow the money, after all…).

Following that money explains why these new policies are being put in place. Leagues like the NFL and distribution outlets like ESPN make their money by controlling the output of the product on the field. If that product starts to have a conversation outside of those lines, money, connection, and reputation might be made on those conversations, value that is not being harvested by the NFL or ESPN. That’s a threat, and they are treating it as such.

It’s no coincidence that the most prolific and natural celebrity users of social media platforms exist outside those manicured boundaries – in sports like tennis (Roger Federer) and cycling (Lance Armstrong, who started tweeting around the time of his appearance at last year’s Web 2 conference). These are celebrities who are not handcuffed by powerful leagues or networks, and who naturally gravitate toward platforms that allow them to connect directly to their fanbase.

Does this sound familiar? It should if you’re a marketer struggling with how to take your brand online. After decades of manicuring your brands through one-way mass media platforms like television, it turns out millions of people are now talking about your prized possessions online, and you can’t directly control the conversation. But a new set of brands have sprung up who seem agile in this environment, and they feel threatening: Think JetBlue and Virgin, over American and Delta. Whole Foods over Lucky. Comcast over AT&T. These “new” brands have taken to social media and are embracing it, warts and all.

I think when it comes to celebrity, the same is also be true. The celebrities who are “minor” now are swarming to Twitter and Facebook, much as unknown bands swarmed to MySpace. Those who have direct, honest connections with their fans will endure. Those who don’t might catch the flame of fame briefly, but they will not endure as brands. Why? Because no matter what, the “packaged goods” platforms of movies, networks, and sports leagues are still important, and it will soon be the players and celebrities with a guaranteed base of hard core fans – or followers – who can call the shots with those powers that be. You think Brooke Burke won’t get a better deal now that she’s in dialog with over a million fans on Twitter? Owning and cultivating your own platform means you no longer are in thrall to “star makers” – together with your community, you make your own star. That’s a kind of celebrity I can get behind.

Bartz: Yahoo Was "Never a Search Company". Me: Bullsh*t.

By - August 07, 2009

Sorry, it’s late, and I just saw this piece in the NYT. But for Bartz to say that Yahoo was never a search company is simply not true.

Yahoo was the original search destination, and a place folks first learned to “search” for stuff on the Web. As the original directory of things worth paying attention on the Web, Yahoo was – and remains for many – the definitive place to start a search query. And also, in the history of Yahoo, let us not forget the entire homepage was redesigned around search just three years ago.