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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It’s Official: Time Weighs In

While at Wired, we used to joke that we'd know our time was up with Time Magazine did a major feature on us (they did, and it was, sort of – it marked a passing of our hype-driven era). Louis used to say he knew the hippy movement was through…

While at Wired, we used to joke that we’d know our time was up with Time Magazine did a major feature on us (they did, and it was, sort of – it marked a passing of our hype-driven era). Louis used to say he knew the hippy movement was through when it made the cover of Time.

Well Saddam made sure that Google wouldn’t make the cover this week, but the magazine nonetheless managed a pretty comprehensive piece of its own. While much of it is retread, I have to give the author credit – it’s one of the first, besides a nice piece in Wired last Feb, which gets to some of the JAM (joints after midnight) issues surrounding search. To wit:

“But for a minute forget about the big numbers, the millions of customers and the billions of dollars. Think about what’s at stake culturally and socially in the search wars, and all those zeros start looking pretty paltry by comparison. The Internet is swiftly becoming the primary repository of the bulk of human information. Search is the way we get at that information, and companies like Google wield enormous power. They reflect our common interests and shape how we learn about the world with their rapid-fire search results. This isn’t just about dotcom juggernauts duking it out for stock options and bragging rights. Whoever wins the search wars owns the keys to the kingdom of knowledge. That’s a big responsibility. Are search engines up to it?

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Remember the Internet Generation?

That's what John Chambers of Cisco dubbed our nation's youth back in the bubble era. Well, now that the internet is cool again, USA Today has come up with another moniker: The Google Generation. The author of this article, a child psychologist, makes a good point: "As members of the…

That’s what John Chambers of Cisco dubbed our nation’s youth back in the bubble era. Well, now that the internet is cool again, USA Today has come up with another moniker: The Google Generation. The author of this article, a child psychologist, makes a good point: “As members of the Google generation, today’s children have facts at their fingertips. They don’t need information fed through toys. They need to play and to become creative problem solvers.” I certainly agree with this. A quote used by the director of my kids’ school (originally from Socrates, I think) goes something like: “A child is a flame to be ignited, not a vessel to be filled.” She suggests holiday toys that do not entertain, but rather that provoke creative play. Her top ten: Play-Doh, building blocks, costume drawers, puppets, red rubber balls, books, crayons, paints, rhythm instruments and dolls.

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Glimmers of Hope In Video Search

One of my more inchoate but deeply felt rants has to do with the role of video in our culture. I'm convinced, for reasons I can't properly articulate, that as a culture we've hobbled ourselves by refusing to make video – in particular the incessant stream of television so omnipresent…

One of my more inchoate but deeply felt rants has to do with the role of video in our culture. I’m convinced, for reasons I can’t properly articulate, that as a culture we’ve hobbled ourselves by refusing to make video – in particular the incessant stream of television so omnipresent in our lives, a more citation-friendly, searchable, and conversational medium. What I’ve always wanted was the ability to approach video much as we now approach text – it can be searched, annotated, cut and pasted, linked to, etc. I want to be able to say “Hey, remember that great rant by Jon Stewart on Halliburton?” and then link to it or email it to a friend. I hint at some of this in various 2.0 columns.
Of course there are many technical and legal issues with the implementation of such a dream. Fist, bandwidth is still too expensive for most mere mortals to be hosting massive libraries of video. Second, the numbnuts at the MPAA. And third, video must be logged and tagged to be searched – it’s not a self-tagging medium like text.
But there is hope. For issue one, there’s the optimism (if not the politics) of folks like Gilder. For issue two, there’s folks like Larry Lessig. And for three, there’s closed captioning (it’s a start!), and the work of lesser known but really exciting companies like ShadowTV (thanks for the link, Gary!).Worth grokking, and good to know smart folks are on the case here.

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It’s Not The Name, It’s The Verb

So the debate on re-naming, or re-spinning, or re-thinking what RSS might mean to a broader world is playing out, at Contentious and on Dave Winer's blog as well as at Salon and here. But as I've been thinking about it, I'm increasingly convinced that the phrase we're looking…


So the debate on re-naming, or re-spinning, or re-thinking what RSS might mean to a broader world is playing out, at Contentious and on Dave Winer’s blog as well as at Salon and here. But as I’ve been thinking about it, I’m increasingly convinced that the phrase we’re looking for we already have – The Web. That word can shapeshift enough to incorporate the changes inherent to a pubsub world, as Dave puts it. Maybe what we’re really looking for is a better verb. Let’s kill surf, as soon as possible. And come up with something better.

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RSS Pushed One Step Closer to the Limelight

Funny how am idea gathers momentum. As I was penning my Implications of RSS For Business column for 2.0 (awaiting publication in dead tree form in three weeks), Scott Rosenberg was writing a pean as well, published in Salon this morning. He suggests we need a name for what…


Funny how am idea gathers momentum. As I was penning my Implications of RSS For Business column for 2.0 (awaiting publication in dead tree form in three weeks), Scott Rosenberg was writing a pean as well, published in Salon this morning. He suggests we need a name for what RSS represents, just as the Web became the mainstream’s understanding of HTML, we need a name for RSS. He reminds us we’ve been here before (remember Push? I was a reluctant contributor to this 1996 article, which began as an email thread in the Wired offices…)

In any case, I agree with Scott, we need a name. All the businesses in this space are still in the pre-market phase. RSS allows us to connect more efficiently, to grok information as we like it, when we like it – but what do we call it? I like to say my reader and blogs/news sources is my personal ecology – is there an idea in there somewhere? In any case, it’s exciting to see the idea start to take popular flight. Watch for the NYT treatment soon.

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