Archive for November, 2006

Not Your Typical Playground

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

This isn’t your average walk in the park. You won’t see any kids running around. This playground is where the big boys come to play.

Two serial entrepreneurs, Mark Dowds and Bobby John, are opening what they call an Indoor Playground logo“Indoor Playground”. This hotbed of resources, creative minds, and an entrepreneurial setting was created to help spark creativity within the Toronto tech community. This local ‘hang-out’ will facilitate the exchange of ideas and form a catalyst for many. I really look forward to seeing the evolution of this hub and how it comes to fruition.

Full-timers, part-timers, and drop-ins will enter and exit the facility on a regular basis, making it a very dynamic centre with huge amounts of resources circulating at all times.

The space itself is 2,000 square feet and located at 364 Richmond St West (Richmond and Peter). Renovations are nearly complete. It stands on the fifth floor and houses an outstanding view of the city. The expected launch date is sometime in January.

The community forum (at Ning) can be found here.

Sponsors will be approached to help offset some of the costs.

I’ve always had the idea of doing something similar down the road once my financial position was a little more secure. It’s great to see someone actually doing it. I wish them all the best and I can’t wait to see the projects that stem from this playground.

I can’t wait til we see this type of facility in Victoria…

Banner Ads… Contextual Ads… Now What?

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Throughout the 90’s, banner ads were industry standard in the world of online advertising. These graphical billboards drove traffic to external sites. A large number of start-ups relied on this revenue model, which proved to be detrimental to most. Costs were measured on a CPM (cost per thousand page views) basis.

Then, in the early years of the new millenium, a man named Bill Gross founded Overture, Overture logowhich was later acquired by Yahoo. The company pioneered the idea of paid search and contextual advertising. This concept was copied by Google and rolled out as Google AdWords and AdSense. Gross sued, and eventually settled with Google. But by now, Google had a stranglehold on the contextual ad market.

These text ads were less obtrusive and tailored to the content of the page, making them more effective and less bothersome on the eyes. This Google logomodel quickly caught on and is now the industry standard. They are used extensively on blogs, portals, and informational sites, among others.

So, what’s next? Well, several companies such as Kontera and Vibrant Media are betting on ‘in-text advertising’. The idea is that specific words within the text and paragraphs of a Kontera logopage act as advertising links to relevant, external sites. In other words, these ads are embedded within the actual content of the page. Some regard this as inconvenient and offensive, while others value the relevance and pertinence.

I encourage readers to visit these two company sites and view what may be the Vibrant Media logofuture of online advertising. I’m still not convinced, but we are still only in the early stages. Expect more advertising platforms to come, especially in the areas of rich-media and video.

Any thoughts on the future of online advertising?

A Better Way to Search Forums

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

Nearly a year ago, a forum search engine launched. The name: Omgili. Instead of indexing all pages like the major engines, this crawler only indexes discussion forums. Yet again, this is another great example of vertical search.

The founders of the company noted that many searchers had questions, while others Omgili logowanted product recommendations. Traditional engines return results based on the text query itself, whereas ‘Omgili’s unique algorithm analyzes forums not as a simple web page, but as an active discussion with a title, topic and replies’, to quote the company description. Essentially, Omgili is helping answer user questions with solutions and recommendations that are already present on the net. This also helps the user avoid re-posting a topic in a forum as well.

For example, the site includes sample searches such as ‘best laptop’ or ’book recommendation’. The engine would then analyze forum discussions to help answer the question and guide you to recommendations.

Functionality and formatting are still in their early stages, but this innovative idea may take off given the right conditions and some minor tweaking.

The number one point I want to make here is that a generic search engine start-up WON’T be able to compete with Google, nor Yahoo, MSN, or Ask for that matter. At least not for a long time. Or unless some patented, ingenious, new technology break-through manifests itself. Unlikely. So, for the time being, search start-ups need to focus on a niche. In this case, the niche is forums. In the case of Technorati, the niche is blogs. In any case, these start-ups will now be able to compete with the big guys, but on a smaller, more level playing field. Though they will not reap the huge rewards and garner billions of page views, they will nonetheless acquire qualified traffic, a loyal user base, and slowly, but surely eat away at Google’s enormous chunk of the pie.

Mark my word, one day we will use niche search engines for nearly every search we perform. The results speak for themselves. 

Enquisite Launches Data Exports

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Local Victoria start-up Enquisite has launched data exports for their search engine web analytics program. An official announcement will be made in the next few days.Enquisite logo

Their flagship analytics tool provides ‘flexible and detailed search engine traffic and search engine positioning reports, in an easy to read and understand format’.

With the addition of this new feature, users will quickly and easily be able to access, review and download reports into Excel. The reports were in high demand by users and will help facilitate the manipulation and modification of the data. The ability to customize and “build your own” interface were key components when designing the feature.

I had the opportunity to speak with Enquisite CEO, Richard Zwicky, on the phone and he was very enthusiastic about this new feature. In an e-mail, he went on to say:

“So, by making the processed data downloadable, we’re empowering our users to enable them to create customized reports, as they need them available.  We’ll continue to create features and reports that users ask for, but some things that users want today, we just can’t do.  For example, one user wants to be able to extract specific information on traffic week over week, and graph just that one piece of information as a trend over time chart.  We’ll get there, but now he doesn’t have to wait – we’ve given him the raw data which he can import into Excel, and process to look exactly how he wants it.  Another user wants to track groups of keywords from specific engines.  Again, we’ll get there, but can’t do it today.  Now, she can get that one additional report she wants.”

I have implemented this software on numerous websites and I have been absolutely blown away by its functionality and ease-of-use. Furthermore, Enquisite is currently offering the software at no cost. To qualify for the BETA user group, fill out this form. There are no guarantees, but Richard has been very generous with his invitations.

I encourage everyone to check out this software, if only to become aware of its functionality. Somewhere down the road it may be of use to you if it isn’t already.

I know I’m pumping this tool, but I use it a lot and I’m a true believer in its functionality - plus it’s FREE. Anyways, I’ll let you make your own conclusions. If you have a website, try it… and let me know your thoughts.

MTW Hits 10,000 Page Views

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

MappingTheWeb has officially broken through the 10,000 page view total for the month of November as of Monday.

After steady, consistent growth since launching in late September, the blog has since surged Graphin terms of traffic after been ’stumbled upon’ several times. For those of you unaware of this term, there is a toolbar produced by a company called StumbleUpon, which allows you to rate sites with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Essentially however, the application can potentially drive huge volumes of traffic to websites (which i was lucky enough to receive). Here is more on StumbleUpon from Wikipedia.

In addition, the RSS subscriber base and Alexa rank are also moving in the right direction.

Apparently people read this blog? Dunno why. Weird.

Time to party and celebrate? Not yet. Maybe when I get 1% of the traffic TechCrunch gets…