Monthly Archives: May 2009

google-search

Google Search Options

searchologyI really like the new Google Search Options (as noted by Matt Cutts reporting on the Searchology press event this week). VentureBeat and others also covered the event in detail. I’ve only focussed on the search options in this post.

Now in your Search results, there’s a bunch of additional filtering options in the Options panel on the left (default it doesn’t show and you click a link to display it).

The ability to filter by timeframe has had plenty of interest, and I personally can see this being a major game changer in terms of SEO. Many have alluded to this being a strategy of pushing towards real time search, and I certainly can’t disagree. But to me the main benefit is being able to filter out irrelevant information, and hence I’ll likely be limiting my timeframe to the ‘Past year’ category.

I’m not so interested in the very latest (unless of course it is a breaking story), rather I’m interested in knowing that when I view results on say ‘top wordpress plugins’ I’m not seeing pages from 4 years ago that are likely irrelevant.

I’d ideally like to see a ‘Past month’ filter option also.

Here’s what it looks like when searching for this blog’s title:

Google Search Options

BTW I think the Wonder Wheel is pretty useless – can anyone point out a good use for it?

(via Matt Cutts)

url-shortener

URL shorteners: less is… less

Twitter - adding hurdles to IT I’ve been intrigued by the whole URL shortener explosion. Every man and his network has a shortener these days :-).

Although they’ve been around for years (tinyurl for example), the reason for the rise in popularity is undoubtedly Twitter with its need for brevity. So much so that some are getting funding in the millions (see my post on bit.ly a few weeks back for example).

What if Twitter changed?

But I wonder what would happen if Twitter decided to change its 140 character rule. What if they decided to add a new field for a full URL as part of their interface. One that you could enter any length URL into. You’d still be limited to 140 characters for your message, but the full URL could be ‘attached’ at no cost.

Its unlikely to happen of course, since it’d be a departure from their ‘keep it simple’ approach, and there’d also be outcry from all the Twitter clients (but, hey Twitter happily changed their email format without much care for the 3rd parties, so that probably wouldn’t stop them making other changes).

But just consider for a moment if Twitter did make a change like this.

Besides all the visible benefits to users (ie no need to have shorteners, ability to see the URL and make a judgement call about whether you wanted to visit the site, ability for 3rd parties to easily identify popular domains being tweeted about, and the list goes on), there’d also be one less step in most people’s process (although only small, there is bandwidth and latency overhead in having to visit the shortener site and then be redirected).

But then there’s the most interesting part:

What would happen to all the URL shorteners? They’d be rendered obsolete overnight.

Barriers for the sake of barriers

And here’s why I find this whole thing interesting:

One company – Twitter – has effectively put in place a barrier (the 140 character limit).

And now other companies are securing millions in order to overcome the barrier.

The net result to users is unchanged – they can include URLs in their tweets.

But the cost is high (3rd party services, obfuscated URLs, additional bandwidth overheads).

Taking a step back and looking at this, it seems inefficient and counterintuitive.

Far from encouraging efficiency, sometimes I think the Tech industry adds more inefficiency than it cares to acknowledge.

protected

The next Twitter trend – Protected Updates

Twitter protected updatesI’m predicting that Protected Updates are going to be the next big Twitter trend.

Why? Because the mad rush for maximum followers has run its course. And people are now realising that having thousands (or even millions) of followers is next to useless (except of course for the psychological reasons). There’s so much noise these days.

Instead of quantity of followers, people will want to build a quality following…

Pruning season

I’ve spent the last two weeks pruning back most of my social networking connections. Twitter and FriendFeed are easy (since it actually looks better to have more people following you than you follow right? :-) ) but now I’ve started culling friends on Facebook too. Yes, I’m actively trying to have less friends. Why? I’m trying to reduce the noise. I’m after quality and credibility. In relationship terms its about deeper, not wider.

Protected Updates

So, back to Protected Update Twitter streams… why would this be any better? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Firstly, if your stream is protected, then its likely you aren’t just out to garner a huge following. Instead you want a quality following.
  • Second, if you aren’t out to just get as many followers as possible, then chances are you’ll probably avoid all those ‘noisy’ Twitter tactics (linking to stuff for the sake of linking, asking questions you already know the answer to, criticising companies in the hope of getting a re-tweet, etc).
  • Third, and following from the second, you’ll like be interested in building credibility. It’s much better to have a few passionate people reading most of your tweets, than thousands of people very rarely reading anything you have to say.
  • Fourth, it creates exclusivity. Imagine if SMEs (subject matter experts) had special protected feeds in which they dispensed high value content, perhaps breaking news, or special tips, before they released it publicly. And you could follow their protected stream. Wouldn’t you feel privileged?
  • Fifth, it creates value. If you are amongst the exclusive few who are allowed access to a quality twitter stream, then I suspect you’re going to value the content on those streams more.
  • Sixth, it is a monetization strategy. This is actually the main reason I think. If you currently provide membership programs or pay-per-view content (including everything from small business programs through to Wall Street Journal subscriptions) then having a protected Twitter account is another way to offer value to your members. It is a feature they get for being a paid member. Imagine if you are a respected stock analyst with people on your exclusive members only email list. Providing an exclusive Twitter account for them to get immediate insights is the next logical step.

Problems

There’s a few problems to be overcome (eg there’s nothing to stop people simply re-tweeting a protected stream), but they’d get worked out in time (eg the person who re-tweeted the protected stream would likely get blocked).

It’s not about Privacy

You’ll note I haven’t mentioned anything to do with Privacy, since that’s a whole topic in itself.

Summary

Twitter (and social networks in general) have reached a point where their mass broadcast value is diminishing. The signal-to-noise ratio drops further everyday. Quantity of followers is becoming less important. Quality of followers is the aim, and credibility of content is the key.

In terms of Twitter, protecting updates is one strategy whereby acknowledged experts in their field can make their presence more valuable. And once the experts (and then the celebrities start doing it) watch as everyone else follows suit.

ms-tag

Microsoft Tag Custom tags contest

Microsoft TagI really like the custom tags idea that Microsoft is enabling via their Microsoft Tag technology.

The idea is that you can take the same concept as the original Microsoft Tags and overlay them on pictures. You can also replace the triangles with dots.

The result is a whole new set of marketing opportunities for your brand as you incorporate a tag into a picture or logo. Time to get those creative juices flowing.

In fact Microsoft is running a competition – called the Tag Slaps Design Contest – to see who can create the coolest custom tag.

Here’s the overview from the contest page:

The Tag Slaps Design Contest challenges you to create an original customized Tag and creative concept for an accompanying mobile experience. Your entry should include a working customized Tag that leads to a mobile web site, as well as a creative concept for a mobile site. The mobile site experience concept should engage your customer and encourage them to take an action such as signing up for a service, getting more information about your product, downloading a special offer or an application, and more.

Here’s a typical original tag:

Microsoft Tag example

And here’s a few examples of custom tags:

Microsoft Tag Custom Tag examples

The contest opens on 4 May 2009 and judging will take place from 22 June.

Don’t get too excited about any big prizes though – this is just for the glory of winning. The winner gets recognition on the tag site, Facebook, Twitter, and select media articles.

(via Neowin)

follow-friday

The #followfriday Twitter scam

Twitter Retweet sillinessIn the race to drum up a following on Twitter, people are using all kinds of silly tactics. The latest one I’m seeing is the fake #followfriday thank you tweets.

Basically you send an @reply to a bunch of people (that probably don’t even follow you) thanking them for recommending you as part of the #followfriday meme. But the thing is they don’t have a clue who you are, and they certainly didn’t recommend you. Perhaps they don’t even do the whole #followfriday thing.

I’m trying to work out what benefit people are getting from using this method – about the only thing I can think of is that by @replying to people with a thank you, the people being thanked might get engaged into some kind of conversation. Perhaps they’ll even follow in order to see what the scammer is talking about.

So, if I were to employ this silly technique I might tweet something like this:

Thanks for the #followfriday love @oprah @aplusk @barackobama @mrskutcher @britneyspears – much appreciated. You guys rock!

Actually, I probably wouldn’t use people this popular – everyone would know it wasn’t real. Instead I’d choose slightly less popular people, perhaps @guykawasaki or @stephenfry. My best case scenario would be if they responded (perhaps reprimanding me for mis-representing them). All the people following them might come and take a look at me and see what the fuss is about.

And the added bonus: any people who were already following me would see this fake thank you, and possibly re-tweet it to their steam.

When will all this silliness end?