Search The Earth

Over at Joho, David Weinberger gives us a tantalizing glimpse of his full length essay in Esther's Release 1.0: The Semantic Earth Every business in the world is headquartered on earth. Every employee works somewhere. Every customer is at some location at every moment. Every product is delivered to some…

Over at Joho, David Weinberger gives us a tantalizing glimpse of his full length essay in Esther’s Release 1.0:
The Semantic Earth

Every business in the world is headquartered on earth. Every employee works somewhere. Every customer is at some location at every moment. Every product is delivered to some spot and every service is performed at some coordinates. Every transaction involves at least one place and usually more than one. And yet, until recently, businesses have systematically managed location information only for processes directly concerned with moving people and goods. Why has the literal common ground of business been largely absent from business applications?……

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Louis Borders and KeepMedia

Today was a meet-with-interesting-folks day, starting with Louis Borders and Doug Herrington, Chair and CEO, in that order, of KeepMedia. Doug and Louis last worked together on WebVan, which I loved as a service. "We overexpanded," Doug confessed. I can relate. KeepMedia has some grand visions of where it might…

Today was a meet-with-interesting-folks day, starting with Louis Borders and Doug Herrington, Chair and CEO, in that order, of KeepMedia. Doug and Louis last worked together on WebVan, which I loved as a service. “We overexpanded,” Doug confessed. I can relate.

KeepMedia has some grand visions of where it might be headed (think learning and communities), but it’s quite busy focusing on its current model, which is providing what I’ll call a “clean and well lit space for magazine search.” OK, so I see most things through the search lens, but really, when you think about it, folks who use the KeepMedia service are looking for content that matches their particular interests, and the KeepMedia service has some interesting search and personal filtering technologies to meet that intent.
(more via link below)

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Features, Features…To What End?

It seems every day Google, and now Yahoo as well, adds more features to its search – first it was phone numbers , then tracking packages, then patents, now it's whois, flights, UPC codes, VINs, and God knows what else. Read a few pages of Google Hacks, and you'll realize,…

It seems every day Google, and now Yahoo as well, adds more features to its search – first it was phone numbers , then tracking packages, then patents, now it’s whois, flights, UPC codes, VINs, and God knows what else. Read a few pages of Google Hacks, and you’ll realize, you never use even 2% of Google’s power, and, most likely, you never will.

This leads me to wonder, where is this all going? I mean, the fact is, most searchers simply don’t use advanced search features *at all* – not even simple operators like quotes (” black jaguar” cat) or negative inclusion (jaguar -cat). So why are these search sites loading up on features that, honestly, nearly all their users will never take advantage of? Do they think searcher’s habits are going to change? I doubt it. I’d be interested in why you these features are being added with such abandon. Just because they can? Maybe they think folks will be building applications on top of the search platform, or will they do it themselves? Are they expecting that a layer of expert searchers will develop who peddle intermediary services (ie Google Answers)? I mean, I can get as excited as the next guy about the addition of the tilde operator or the “*” function, but….it feels like there is something in aggregate I am missing. Must be the varathane on the floor in the next room, keeping me from grokking the grand plan in all this. Help me out!

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Sterling on Search

Thanks to Google Blogoscoped for pointing me to this Reason interview with Bruce Sterling. In it he opines on media, tech, etc., and has some words of wisdom on search in particular. Excerpts: There is a Google blindness. It’s a kind of common wisdom generator, but it’s not necessarily going…

Thanks to Google Blogoscoped for pointing me to this Reason interview with Bruce Sterling. In it he opines on media, tech, etc., and has some words of wisdom on search in particular. Excerpts:

There is a Google blindness. It’s a kind of common wisdom generator, but it’s not necessarily going to get you to the real story of what’s actually going on.

reason: As today’s children get older they’re internalizing Boolean search logic, and they actually do show some discrimination and drill down to the useful information.

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Television News, New Year’s Eve, and a Question

I was going to let this one slide, but I thought, what the hell, this is what a blog is for. So perhaps some of you readers might have an answer to this query and its associated hypothesis (as yet unproven or even tested), and, if true, the related problem…

fireworksI was going to let this one slide, but I thought, what the hell, this is what a blog is for. So perhaps some of you readers might have an answer to this query and its associated hypothesis (as yet unproven or even tested), and, if true, the related problem I have with it.

Query: Why, on New Year’s Eve, which my wife and I spent blissfully housebound with a newborn and our two other young’uns, were NONE of the news channels, not NBC, not CBS, not ABC, not even CNN or MSNBC, running the traditional “New Year’s Around the World” fare? The stuff you see every single New Year’s Eve? You know – It’s New Year’s Eve in Paris (ooh – fireworks behind the Eiffel Tower!), then New York (the ball drops!), Chicago (revelers drinking), etc? This stuff is usually shown live around the world. It was very very odd to see re-runs of Aaron Brown’s evening program on CNN, instead of live shots from world capitals. And on the networks, only ABC had a New Year’s special, and it was clearly canned and overly produced (Dick Clark, from beyond the grave), with no live shots (at least, not to us in California).

Hypothesis: It seems to me that this had to do with the heightened terror alert level. I can’t think of any other reason. Television news didn’t want to potentially broadcast an attack live to the world, and wanted terrorists to know that the opportunity to strike live on television would not exist.

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FriendRank

Jeremy has an interesting proto-meme brewing over at his site on the concept of FriendRank. Worth a good JAM session or two. (And it smacks of whuffie, no?)…

Jeremy has an interesting proto-meme brewing over at his site on the concept of FriendRank. Worth a good JAM session or two. (And it smacks of whuffie, no?)

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Vertical Search: Sidestep The Obvious

Folks from time to time ask me if the game is up, if Google, Yahoo and a few others have locked up search forever. Bah!, I say. Search lives in every corner of the internet, insinuating itself into every fold of discoverable information. There are simply too many folds…


Folks from time to time ask me if the game is up, if Google, Yahoo and a few others have locked up search forever. Bah!, I say. Search lives in every corner of the internet, insinuating itself into every fold of discoverable information. There are simply too many folds – large search companies can’t profitably exploit every one of them. Hence the continued rise, in 2004, of the vertical search category. Examples? Sidestep, a travel search site that seems to be gaining traction of late. Why? The company’s core promise to consumers can be found on its site: “SideStep is a search engine – not an online travel agency. ” In other words, you can trust it, as it’s not trying to sell you anything. It’s focused entirely on its mission of finding the best travel deal, as opposed to selling you whatever inventory its partners might want to clear that day.

So what’s the point? Have I fallen in love with Sidestep? No – it’s still fish with feet – requiring you to download a software application that “watches” you do travel searches, then makes better suggestions. But I just love the idea it represents: search is a real time publishing opportunity. You can make a business of solving a person’s ephemeral but specific information problem, addressing a person’s simple but non-trivial query – “What’s the cheapest hotel room in New York right now?” – and make a decent living at it to boot. Obritz, Expedia, Hotels.com – they all claim to do that – but they’re not publishers, they’re agents. Same with so many other first-generation vertical sites – Autobytel comes to mind. My experience is that they are all in the thrall of their partners and their inventory – they are in no way independent. (Just try asking Autobytel this question: “What’s the cheapest Volvo c70 on the Web right now?” They send you to a dealer. Not exactly what you had in mind, eh?) I just love the idea that finding an honest answer to a reasonable question works as a business on the internet. Somehow, it feels like the essence of what publishing on the web can be – impartial (and complete) answers to honest questions. So I root for the Sidesteps of the world. The idea it represents scales to all sorts of opportunities, yet to be discovered.

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Thoughts on 2004

I am not sure why all of a sudden I am struck with the urge to prognosticate, but all weekend long I've been thinking about what might happen next year in the search/tech/media nexus. I think it has something to do with the book – my plan is to finish…

I am not sure why all of a sudden I am struck with the urge to prognosticate, but all weekend long I’ve been thinking about what might happen next year in the search/tech/media nexus. I think it has something to do with the book – my plan is to finish it by about mid year, then pray that nothing major changes for another six months while the manuscript wends its way through the vagaries of the publishing process. It’s either that, or Jeremy envy.

So I’ve been thinking about a number of things, some small, some not so small, which might happen in the next twelve months. Given that I’m writing this on the eve of Winter’s Solstice, I give you Battelle’s First Annual Solstice Hopes and Predictions for 2004. I refuse to say which are hopes, and which predictions. This way, I can claim to be right next year one way or another. Take it for what it cost you on the way in…. (see list via link below)

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LinkedIn+Vertical Blogs = Interesting Microcommunities

(Updated) I think it'd be cool if you could join a network of folks who read the same blog(s). I've always maintained that any good publishing effort understands and reflects its community – that it is both a mirror to the community members, and a window into that community for…

(Updated)
I think it’d be cool if you could join a network of folks who read the same blog(s). I’ve always maintained that any good publishing effort understands and reflects its community – that it is both a mirror to the community members, and a window into that community for folks who are interested in joining or understanding that community. Conferences have always been a neat way for readers of a publication to meet each other, for example. Foo Camp was one of the first I’ve been to where “blog ecologies” ended up meeting FTF, and it was quite something to see how folks who’d been connected mainly by blogs ended up working together in real space.

So think if you could “see” all the other people who read this site each day (and who opt-in to be seen, of course) – and invite them into a LinkedIn like network if you wished to. I wonder if that’s in the cards for LinkedIn – to do vertical OEM stuff like that? Are there others working on stuff like this?
(Thanks for the meme, Matt…)

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How the Information Age = The Dark Ages

This meme has popped up a lot over the past decade: We're increasingly putting everything on digital media, which is great, but we're failing to archive it properly, and even when we do, we're not archiving the machines we need to read the data. A librarian at the British Library…

This meme has popped up a lot over the past decade: We’re increasingly putting everything on digital media, which is great, but we’re failing to archive it properly, and even when we do, we’re not archiving the machines we need to read the data. A librarian at the British Library makes this observation again in an article entitled The Great Digital Information Disappearing Act. (Thanks Gary for the link).

But we’re missing a larger point. It’s not just the data – the emails, MP3s, the websites. It’s also the data about the data – the traces of our digital culture that are kept in the database of intentions. That data – what people wanted, when they wanted it, how they asked for it, what they got, where they went – represents no less than the cultural artifacts of our day, equivalent to the pottery shards and stone tools left by our forbearers. Imagine yourself an archaeologist 2,000 years from now. Wouldn’t you like access to MSN or Google’s database of intentions, so as to plumb the traces of an ancient culture emerging into the digital era? But to date, most search companies are either not archiving that data, or if they are, they are keeping it to themselves for competitive or legal reasons. There are huge privacy issues, of course, in insuring this data becomes part of our digital history, but they are solvable. What we don’t have is the cultural will or foresight to realize what we’re creating.

In any case, this is one of the larger informing concepts I am working on for the book. Your comments and input greatly appreciated.

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