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The Past Week In Signal, 5.23 Edition

By - May 23, 2011

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Another seven days, another news cycle full of chewy goodness. For you 316K or so RSS readers, here’s what I do from about 8-10pm each evening, over on the FM blog:

Monday Signal: Mind Your Private Bits, Folks, It’s Getting Hot

Friday Signal: LinkedIn Steps Out

Thursday Signal: Policy Takes Center Stage, and It’s Not Going Away

Weds. Signal: I Speak for the TVs!

Tuesday Signal: A Rare Slow Day, Enjoy It

Monday Signal: WTF!!!

If it suits your information consumption goals, sign up for Signal’s email newsletter or RSS feed on the FM home page (upper right box).

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There Are No More "Dot Coms"

By - May 19, 2011

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At least, there shouldn’t be. We’ve passed that era. Any business of scale and worthy of going public, as LinkedIn did today in spectacular style, isn’t a dotcom. It’s a real business, with significant impact in several important markets. In LinkedIn’s case, those markets include publishing, recruitment, and professional services. So what if they are leveraged over a digital platform that has a “.com” address? At this point, that’s pretty much the entire US economy, not to mention a significant percentage of the “rest of the world.”

I’m tired of the easy comparisons to the dotcom bubble. They simply aren’t accurate.

What Makes Your Business Special?

By - May 17, 2011

BigBreak.pngAs I’ve told folks on Twitter, I’m a judge in American Express OPEN’s “Big Break” program, a Facebook promotion that is offering five worthy small businesses a chance to fly to Facebook HQ and get a complete “business makeover,” as well as $20,000 in cash.

As someone who has started five or so small businesses, I know the power of a helping hand at the right time, heck, I know the power of just organizing oneself to enter a contest like this. Just doing the work of communicating why your business is worthy of support from someone else is an exercise that can yield benefits all on its own.

And every one of us knows a small business that we love and want to support, I know about ten, in fact. I’ve been telling them about this program, and encouraging them to sign up. I hope you will do the same.

But time is running out. The deadline to enter is this Friday, May 20th.

Entry is fairly straightforward and simple – a three part questionnaire, a photo upload portion, and contact information. The entry questions are listed below:

“Tell us about your business. What makes you excited to come to work every day?”

“How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?”

“How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?”

25-30 semifinalists will be narrowed down to 10 finalists, followed by 5 community-chosen winners. The prize is as follows:

• 10 finalists, as determined by judging, will:

• Be filmed and have a video created by American Express for use in community vote

• Receive $2,500 in Facebook ad credits

• 5 winners, as determined by community voting, will each receive:

• A trip to Facebook headquarters for a two-day Facebook business makeover

• $20K to grow their business

• Opportunity to appear in OPEN Facebook webisodes

As most of you know, American Express OPEN Forum is jointly produced by my company, FM, but I’m promoting this program because I believe in it. So if you run a small business, or know and love someone who does, encourage them to apply!

Initial Web 2 Summit Lineup Announced

By - May 11, 2011

Today we announced the first tranche of speakers for this year’s Web 2 Summit conference, Oct. 17-19 at the Palace Hotel. It’s a great group, but we’re really only getting started. I’m mixing up the programming approach quite a bit this year, with no panels and a lot more short, impactful High Order Bits and data visualizations. Right now we have 26 or so speakers confirmed, but I expect we’ll be at nearly three times that by the time we’re done. The program is going to be BANG BANG BANG, not that it dragged in the past….

One new thing I’ll be doing as well is forming an advisory board. More on that soon, but my goal is to gather input on the program from a diverse set of voices. This is something I did way back when we started in 2004, it felt right to do it again.

You’ll notice the lineup has a fair share of the industry heavyweights you might expect me to interview (Steve Ballmer, Dick Costolo, Steven Elop, Michael Dell, etc), as well as some names that perhaps you have not heard of (Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell, “The Information” author James Gleick, etc.). In the coming months, I’ll be announcing new additions pretty frequently, mainly through Twitter, so if you want to stay on top of them, follow me or the Web 2 Summit handle.

Below are the speakers in visual form.

Registration is open, if you want to come, now’s the time, as you get a far better price. We’ve sold out registration every year since 2004.The link at left includes the discount, which lasts, if I recall, only for a short time. Hope to see you there!

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Facebook to Take Lead in Display on Web? Hold On…

By - May 10, 2011

Today a big story broke across my news feeds: “Facebook set for display ad lead” says one typical headline in the Financial Times. It continues:

Facebook’s large user base will make it the world’s largest online display advertising company by revenue this year, overtaking the comparable businesses of Google and Yahoo, according to analysis published on Tuesday. Enders Analysis, based in London, in a report on Tuesday, forecasts that Facebook will lift its advertising revenues from $1.8bn to $3.5bn in 2011, a rise of 95 per cent. At the same time, Google’s display business – which includes YouTube, the video site, and DoubleClick, its banner network – is expected to rise from $2bn last year to $2.6bn this year …

The comparison makes for great headlines, but I don’t really think it’s apples to apples. First of all, it excludes all of Google’s search advertising, which has been evolving quite rapidly towards a more “display” like look and feel. And secondly, it’s rather hard to tell the difference between Google search ads and Facebook “display” ads. After all, this is what Facebook display ads look like:

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And this is what Google “search” ads look like:

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Further confusing the analysis, this is what Google “search” ads look like when they include an image, which you can do now if you want:

Google search w image.png

Now that looks an awful lot like a typical Facebook display ad, doesn’t it?

I am quite sure if you did the analysis against creative as opposed to categorizing “search” as distinct from “display,” the headlines about “Facebook taking over from Google” would surely disappear.


Why Data Matters, Another Interesting Signal: Direction Requests

By - May 09, 2011

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Greg Linden, a friend to the site back when I was writing the first book, is writing more lately, and he’s got a great post about Google Maps data that highlights why we’ve decided to focus on “The Data Frame” for the Web 2 Summit this year.

Greg notes that Google has a new signal to which it can pay attention, thanks to Google Maps. And while I’m sure Greg could have figured this out on his own, he didn’t have to, because some Googlers have already published their findings in a paper titled “Hyper-Local, Direction-Based Ranking of Places.”

In short, the paper posits that when people signal their intent to go from place A to place B, they are creating the equivalent of a link, or a vote, for the place to which they are requesting directions. Pretty clever. As Greg notes:

…certain very large search engines have massive logs of people asking for directions from A to B, hundreds of millions of people and billions of A to B queries. And, it appears this data may be as or more useful than user reviews of businesses and maybe GPS trails for local search ranking, recommending nearby places, and perhaps local and personalized deals and advertising.

What Greg (and I) found surprising is that Google hasn’t been leveraging this new data signal in its current Maps (and other local) products. It’s clearly a strong signal, and one that could inform all sorts of social context as well. Can you imagine finding out others who have asked for similar directions, and then connecting you to them in some way? I sure can.

I’d also love to see a heat map of directions in real time, overlaid in time, space, and social graph.

Data like this mashed up with reviews, real time traffic, and more will be extraordinarily useful. Food for thought.

Building A New Map And I Need Your Help: What Are The Key Categories of Data In Today's Network Economy?

By - May 04, 2011

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Many of you probably remember the “Points of Control” Web 2 Summit Map from last year, it was very well received. Hundreds of thousands of folks came to check it out, and the average engagement time was north of six minutes per visitor. It was a really fun way to make the conference theme come to life, and given the work that went into its creation, we thought it’d be a shame to retire it simply because Web 2 has moved on to a new theme.

As I posted last week, this year’s theme is “The Data Frame.” From my updated verbiage describing the theme:

For 2011, our theme is “The Data Frame” - focusing on the impact of data in today’s networked economy. We live in a world clothed in data, and as we interact with it, we create more – data is not only the web’s core resource, it is at once both renewable and boundless.


Consumers now create and consume extraordinary amounts of data. Hundreds of millions of mobile phones weave infinite tapestries of data, in real time. Each purchase, search, status update, and check-in layers our world with more of it. How our industries respond to this opportunity will define not only success and failure in the networked economy, but also the future texture of our culture. And as we’re already seeing, these interactions raise complicated questions of consumer privacy, corporate trust, and our governments’ approach to balancing the two.

How, I wondered, might we update the Points of Control map such that it can express this theme? Well, first of all, it’s clear the game is still afoot between the major players. Some boundaries may have moved, and progress has been made (Bing has gained search share, Facebook and Google have moved into social commerce, etc.), but the map in essence is intact as a thought piece.

Then it struck me – each of the major players, and most of the upstarts, have as a core asset in their arsenals *data*, often many types of it. In addition, most of them covet data that they’ve either not got access to, or are in the process of building out (think Google in social, for example, or in deals, which to my mind is a major play for local as well as purchase data.) Why not apply the “Data Frame” to the map itself, a lens of sorts that when overlaid upon the topography, shows the data assets and aspirations of each player?

So here’s where you come in. If we’re going to add a layer of data to each player on the map, the question becomes – what *kind* of data? And how should we visualize it? My initial thoughts on types of data hew somewhat to my post on the Database of Intentions, so that would include:

- Purchase Data (including credit card info)

- Search Data (query, path taken, history)

- Social Graph Data (identity, friend data)

- Interest Data (Likes, tweets, recommendations, links)

- Location Data (ambient as well as declared/checked in)

- Content Data (Journey through content, likes, engagement, “behavioral”)

Those are some of the big buckets. Clearly, we can debate if, for example, identity should be its own category, separate from social, etc, and that’s exactly the kind of argument I hope to spark. I’m sure I’ve missed huge swaths of landscape, but I’m writing this in a rush (have a meeting in five minutes!) and wanted to get the engine started, so to speak.

I’m gathering a small group of industry folks at my home in the next week to further this debate, but I most certainly want to invite my closest collaborators – readers here at Searchblog, to help us out as we build the next version of the map. Which, by the way, will be open sourced and ready for hacking….

So please dive into comments and tell me, what are the key categories of data that companies are looking to control?