Skrenta Interview

Search Engine Marketing has an interview with Rich Skrenta of Topix.net. Some excerpts:

We’re experiencing an explosion in the number of news outlets. Beyond the newspaper web sites, TV stations, news radio stations, and online magazines, there are increasing amounts of information being provided by corporate and government entities, as well as weblog authors and other non-journalist writers. To scan this massive amount of incremental information available each day for items which can be personally relevant is a big job, but one amenable to computer automation. At a high level Topix.net’s mission is to read everything new on the Internet every 30 minutes and let you know about new, relevant information that’s of interest to you — whether that interest is based on a local city, a hobby interest, a business sector, or some other content channel.

Search is definitely a platform. Microsoft Word has a spell checker built in, but it seems to not know about many common terms I use. Beyond that even, can it correct misspellings of ‘Skrenta’? Google can do both, using the world’s largest document collection and some fancy algorithms.

The platform that search can provide also has monetization built in. Imagine shareware that doesn’t ask you to send $5 to a PO Box, but can channel relevant advertising into a web-enabled application. Search is a first step to full utilization of a world-sized corpus of encyclopedic information, combined with the full value that community participation in the content & commerce process can provide.

RSS Future

Venture Blog has a post by Kevin Laws:

One direction relates to automating tasks for you. This is basically the return of agent technology. Now that a wider variety of web sites are available in machine readable format, it should be possible to tell your computer things like “tell me when an article about gnosticism appears”. While this is similar to the stored searches on Google, the fact that RSS aggregators are closer to real-time makes this more valuable. The best analogy is “Tivo for the Web” – specify web sites to definitely “record” and the agent can also record a selection of potentially interesting web posts.

Another direction is enterprise use for RSS. Imagine replacing Microsoft Exchange with an interlocking array of RSS feeds. Each user with Outlook receives their shared calendar, contacts, and other information from subscriptions to RSS feeds. Or they become contributors, sharing one of their calendars with others. I’m sure reading that sentence inspires a host of potential objections for why RSS can not do that. Yet.

As both examples imply, however, RSS is more evolution than revolution. It is not a brand new Internet; rather, it is an improvement on the existing one that has finally pushed machine-to-machine content communication over the tipping point. That certainly allows some interesting and very large opportunities, particularly in search and collaborative filtering (see the Attention.XML project). However, after several companies become successful laying down the plumbing and infrastructure to support it, for the most part it will become a tool integrated into existing platforms (much like XML).

Greg Linden adds: “What makes RSS interesting is that machines can easily read and process news feeds. This is where the future of RSS lies. Current feed readers merely reformat RSS feeds for display. Future feed readers will rip apart the content, analyze the data, and help you find the information you need.”

Personalised Information Streams

Greg Linden posts an excerpt from a talk by John Doerr: “Maybe we’ll get to 3 billion people on the web and say that what matters to all of us is information, and products, and more. Which is we live in time and we’re assaulted by events. And, so, let’s just say there’s 3 billion events going on at any given time. And if you wanted to compute the cross product of the 3 billion people and the 3 billion events — ’cause you need to filter very carefully the information that’s going to get to this device — I don’t want to be assaulted by anything but the most relevant information …”

Greg adds: John Doerr is talking about personalized information streams, personalized filtering of information about events. John’s saying, show me the relevant news, interesting new products, and useful new documents I need to see. Surface the events that matter to me.

Mobile TV Standards

BBC News writes:

All is not simple and straightforward in the mobile TV arena.

There is a battle for supremacy between two competing standards: DVB-H for Digital Video Broadcasting for Handsets and DMB for Digital Multimedia Broadcasting.

Dr Chan Yeob Yeun, vice president and research fellow in charge of mobile TV at LG Electronics, said: “DMB offers twice the number of frames a minute as DVB-H and does not drain mobile batteries as quickly.”

The Japanese, Koreans and Ericsson of Sweden are backing DMB.

Nokia, by contrast, is backing DVB-H, and is involved in mobile TV trials that use its art-deco style media phone, which has a larger than usual screen for TV or visual radio (a way of accompanying a radio programme with related text and pictures).

Even if the standards battle is resolved, there is the thorny issue of broadcasting rights.

The Patient’s Doctor

Dr Aniruddha Malpani (a good friend and a great doctor) has started a blog on “helping patients and doctors to talk to each other.”

From one of the posts: A lot of doctors try to put patients “in their place” by showing them how little they know. Also, many family members discourage patients from getting information about their problem, by suggesting that: medicine is too complex; it will all go “over their heads”; and that “the doctors knows best”. While it is true that a little knowledge can be dangerous, ignorance ius far more harmful ! A good doctor will help you build on your knowledge-base, rather than try to insult your intelligence or pooh-pooh your efforts to become better informed.”

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Simple Silly Search

The hottest topic in computing and Internet circles today is a six-letter word to describe an activity we have been doing all our lives and which until now had not been elevated to the level that it has been in recent times. S-e-a-r-c-h. We search all the time. It is as basic as breathing. Sometimes, we search our pockets and purses. At other times, we search our memories. A decade ago, we started searching the global web of documents and then gave up because of the irrelevance of the results. Google changed all that. And in the past year, Search has become the most important word in the online lexicon as Google, having surpassed Amazon and Yahoo, is only slightly behind eBay in the race to become the most valuable company in the Internet space.

Even as Search has become one of the more important activities that we do, let us step back for a few moments and consider the online model of what is happening. We enter a word or two in a keyword box either on a web page or on our desktop (part of a toolbar or the browser bar). In zero-point-something seconds, the search engine returns to us a set on our computer screen a dozen or so links of matching content with maybe half-a-dozen advertiser links. Think about this: a world wide web of billions of documents distilled down to less than twenty identical links for each of us irrespective of location and time. This is the world, simplistically speaking, on which multi-billion-dollar valuations have been built.

We all seem to be gleefully clicking away at this narrow set of results because the advertisers are bidding up what they are willing to pay for our attention. Even as the world becomes richer with personal publishing tools providing a much wider set of amateur publishers, the interface to the web when it comes to search has barely changed. If anything, Search has become the hottest space on the Internet everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo to Amazon along with tens (or perhaps) of entrepreneurial start-ups are all working to stake out the future. Search has become synonymous with the Internets future and perhaps, computing s future.

There is plenty of ideation going around. Will Google do a browser? Will our word processing application be delivered by Google with the right panel free to cost, and ads filling up the right panel contextually related to what we are writing? Will all the worlds information books, TV programmes, our own disks be searchable at the click of a button? Can all this world really be compressed down to a couple dozen links? Is our world really that simple? Are each of us so identical that we can all be delighted with the same set of results? Is Search a momentary interface in time or is it that all-encompassing window to the world?

I think of todays Search-mania as good because it has focused attention on the problem (and we dont seem to be thinking enough about it). The problem search is trying to address is that of too much data and that is growing faster than the search engines can index or derive insights into. This mania is also bad because it takes away attention from many other things that are happening in the related, sometimes overlapping worlds of content, mobility and computing. In this series, we will take a look beyond the search core.

Tomorrow: Perspectives