Archive for the ‘markets’ Category

Humans Vs. Computers: The Editorial Debate

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Directories versus search engines. Editors versus algorithms. Quality versus quantity. However you want to break it down, the age old dilemma remains.

Google has risen to stratospheric levels because of its ingenious link-based search engine algorithm. Wikipedia, on the other hand, has achieved fame following a different path - an editorial-based path. Now Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia) is looking to launch a search engine of his own. In contrast to Google, this new engine will be human-powered, as opposed to algorithm-powered. The trade-offs are very apparent. Nevertheless, a case can be made for either side - there are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies.

The most obvious trade-off is with respect to quality versus quantity. Search engines can crawl a lot more pages and websites than a group of editors can. However, quality and relevance can be maximized using humans. Furthermore, this effort would also eliminate parked and advertising-laden landing pages from the search results.
Speed and frequency are also an issue. Automated search happens at a very fast pace. Updates are always ongoing. An editorial effort would be much slower and less likely to produce updates at a high rate.

I am very interested to see how the search engine model of Jimmy Wales takes shape. This PR darling will undoubtedly grasp a loyal following from the get-go based on the success of Wikipedia. But I am still not unconvinced that a human-led search engine endeavour can keep up to the computing power of a multi-computer, algorith-based system.

Could there ever be such thing as a hybrid?…

Digg Just Buried Itself

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Digg logoThe irony is simply extraordinary.

The past day in the life of Digg has been chaotic, tumultuous, and earth-shattering to put it mildly. If you are unaware of what has gone on, please familiarize yourself with the events of the past day or so before reading on.

Digg has based its success and premise on the power of ‘the crowds’. Irony entered the picture when the crowds decided to turn against the site. Sound familiar? Drawing from similar offline events, this sounds like a civil war or a revolution of sorts. Who ever thought Rome would fall?

This is the day many have been waiting for. This is a day that had to happen in evolution of the net. This is the day we find the flaws of social media.

Up until now, people have rejoiced and praised the advantages and benefits of wikis, social media, and crowdsourcing (among other things). These trends not only create community and a sense of belonging, but also viral growth within the user base. But what happens when the community feels disjointed and betrayed? An uproar of mammoth proportions.

Digg users felt betrayed by the ‘corporate entity’ that is behind Digg. Though I’m sure the decision to remove the stories was made with the best intentions, the stories were not the concern in the first place (for the users). The decision was. When Digg decided to delete those stories, it jumped into the shark tank.

So what does the future of Digg look like now? Doubtful in my mind. The company valuation plummeted in a matter of hours. A lot of money was lost due to a little bit of information. My guess is that the site will stay up and the company will fight all allegations in court til the bitter end - but will lose. The day’s events also bring up other questions. How are Digg’s investors going to react? What about the VC’s? There are so many questions to be answered in the days to come… My mind is running at 100mph.

What is Digg at its core? An amazing product? No. A sophisticated program that took years to build? No. It’s a simple concept, an algorithm. The magic enters the equation when users begin to interact with the site. And this aspect becomes more true and more powerful (for good or bad) as the user base increases. Previously, good was all that had come of the site. But now we are seeing the dark, ill-fated side of Digg that many were scared to see, but are now forced to live with.

This story truly hits home as it deals with so many different angles, perspectives, and notions. I think that a lot of people fail to see the psychology behind the events. This is the most interesting aspect to me. I hope to see case studies and research done on this matter. How can a site that garners 1% of all U.S. Internet traffic fall in a matter of hours? The magnitude/amplitude/reach of the Internet is undeniably scary and this is evidence of that.

The true significance of the Digg story has nothing to do with Digg. It has to do with the future of the Internet at large. Digg is merely the introduction to this never-ending story.

As they say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Or in this case, don’t f*ck with your users. I wish Digg all the best and I hope we can all learn from its mistakes. All the best, Kevin Rose.

Will Blogs Replace News Agencies?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Yes and no. Blogs will replace news (as we know it) for those who like to stay on top of the most current headlines. However, some prefer to sit, relax, and don’t mind waiting a day to read the headlines. These folks will not be phased by the speed and reach of blogs. Still, blogs represent others advantages and benefits that non-blog readers should be aware of…

Blogs (and the Internet in general) have turned the world of journalism and reporting upside down. Traditional agencies are scrambling to deal with this new medium. The days of objectivity are gone. Because bloggers are not tied to a news conglomerate or any rules for that matter, they are free to not only report the news but also express their opinion on it. This presents a whole new landscape and realm to the field of journalism.

Phenomena such as independent citizen journalism and moblogging have proven that the power of the crowd is much faster and more responsive than any news agencies will ever be. Anybody can quickly and easily snap a photo or shoot a video and have it online in minutes, if not seconds. Sites like NowPublic and even Twitter are streamlining this process. Add to that the fact that Internet users can pull RSS feeds via a feed reader.

The blogging food chain ensures that the news is disseminated among all levels of blogging. Initially (in most cases), an A-lister reports a story to their audience. Immediately, these folks blog the story and quote the A-lister. This process continues to occur and the story trickles down the blogging hierarchy, gaining an opinion and new angle at every stop. On the positive side, new perspectives and insight may be gained. On the negative side, the story may become so distorted and fragmented that it lacks the fundamental elements of the initial news story.

Contrary to what many believe, I do not think that social news sites, such as Digg or Reddit, will replace their traditional counterparts. This thought crosses my mind: “Just because the users vote something to the front page doesn’t mean it’s current or even a news story”. For that reason, people can discover cool things on Digg, but not browse the newest, most relevant news stories. In any case, surfing random links for hours upon hours is fun too.

My last argument for blogging isn’t really an argument. Rather, it is evidence. In the past, blogs have quoted newspapers on countless occasions. The Chicago Sun said this, the LA Times said that… But now, the tables have turned. Because of the power of blogs, the relationship with readers, and the reputation among A-listers, some newspapers are now quoting blogs! I remember a little while back, the New York Times quoted Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. This was a sign of changing times. Expect this to evolve from a shock, to a fad, to a trend, to the norm.

An interesting thought comes to mind when thinking of the revenue model for online newspapers and agencies alike? Historically, they have charged a subscription fee. But now, people expect things to be free. If a price is involved, the user is gone. It seems that most online news providers are moving to an advertising model. What else can they do?

What Ever Happened to Zune?

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Microsoft Zune logoRemember that highly-touted, over-budget, lackluster Microsoft MP3 player Zune? If you don’t, I forgive you. If you do, you may be wondering the same things as I.

Is it still around? Did anyone actually buy one?

I don’t know a single person that bought the device. Nor do I ever hear or read anything about it anymore. It’s like it doesn’t exist. The iPod still seems to be the player of choice for most of the population. The disease that is the Apple culture has gone mainstream and never looked back.

I think we need a term for this recurring Microsoft trend.The scenario seems to follow an eerie, recognizable pattern in which the company enters an established market late in the game, and produces a hyped, high budget, flop of a product. How about the “Microsoft Syndrome”?

A recent example that comes to mind is the announcement of an Adobe Flash competitor named Silverlight. Isn’t it a little late in the game? Flash is the industry standard. In addition, most web junkies hate the plug-in from a usability perspective anyway.

I think the company needs a wake-up call. This software giant continues to ‘innovate’ and push the boundaries beyond traditional products into new, unchartered waters. Sometimes this move works (xBox), while most of the time it crumbles (Live Search, Zune).

If I had one piece of advice for the company, it would be this: stick with your core competency and focus on creating a more useful, enjoyable experience. Almost everyone hates Windows for many reasons. But since there is a monopoly, consumers have no other choice if they want to operate a PC. Furthermore, the company has a stranglehold on their bread-and-butter - the office suite. But this area is in jeopardy as competitors, such as Google and Zoho, threaten with web-based suites. Therefore, Microsoft needs to erect barriers against these competitors and create more robust offerings to satisfy consumer needs.

Finally, as mentioned, the company needs to focus on the Windows experience. After all, this is what made the company the worldwide mogul it is today. Without the OS, Microsoft is nothing. And I suspect there may be some heavy competition and surprising innovation in the area in the very near future.

SEO Tip #5 - Acquiring Back-Links

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

At the end of the day, the best way to acquire a lot of good quality, relevant back-links is to simply provide good content. Whether it be a blog post, a funny video, or a spectacular photo, users will link to your site if they deem the content to be unique and valuable.

Having said that, users need to somehow discover your site in the first place before they are able to back-link. In addition, the ability to constantly attract new visitors is always a plus. For these reasons, acquiring some back-links is necessary. As we all know, back-links are at the heart of Google’s search algorithm - and Yahoo’s and MSN’s now too… Finally, not only do these links provide SEO juice, but they also drive direct traffic as well, creating a two-fold effect.

So where does one find these coveted one-way back-links?

I wish I had a simple answer, but each website must be examined on a case-by-case basis. However, all web properties can be submitted to directories, including specialty ones. This is free, one-way linking and usually provides a reasonable PR link.

Directories aside, creative thinking must be emphasized for any linking campaign. Let’s take Eat Across Canada for example. The site is a guide to local restaurants across Canada. Where can it obtain back-links?

  • General directories (obviously)
  • Specialty directories (focused around Canada, food, dining, and restaurants)
  • Targeted, niche blogs
  • Industry organizations and members
  • Affiliated companies and partners

… to name a few…

Another good way to discover potential linking sites is by doing a backward link check of your competitors. Who is linking to them? Might they also be interested in linking to you? There is a good chance. could also create a blog or post articles related to dining, food, cuisine, and culture. If the content is well-written, these articles could be a catalyst for back-links from readers. Content is king. The cliche lives on…

In any case, if some creative thought can be put around strategizing a linking campaign, chances are that this initial grassroots push may be the spark that ignites the linking fire.