06.19.08

Working at ZillionTV

Posted in Technology News at 2:40 pm by Brandon Wirtz

I haven’t been posting near as much as I would like lately.  The reason is that I have shelved development on my personal projects for something I think is much, much more interesting.

I’m working at a company ZillionTV  What makes a guy drawing 6 figures from his home with the ability to work in his bath robe want to get up every morning fight commute traffic, and show up for a 9 to 9 job?  Potential.  I can’t tell you anything about Zillion, they are in stealth mode at the moment, and for good reason.  These guys are the real deal, and when they hit they will be light years ahead of anyone out there, but I don’t want someone to critique, prejudge, or overhype what is coming.  So all I’m going to tell you is what you can tell from the name.  TV and lots of it.

Something is coming.

05.13.08

Google Adwords can Destroy your Website

Posted in Google at 10:00 am by Brandon Wirtz

I recently ran a campaign on Google Adwords Search and Content Network, which was a traffic building campaign.  I use these partly to build new audience and partly because often I can run ads against words no one is buying.  Everything was going great, until Google indexed the pages on the content network with my ads.

The ads look something like this:

PC Cheat Codes
Cheats for 1000′s of games
like crackdown
linktosite/get/gamename

And there are nearly 6000 of them for different games which my site has cheats for.  Not all of them were priced high enough to run on Search, most of them weren’t priced high enough to run on the content network.  But I was looking for cheap words.

Many of these a few days ago had 0 hits for the words "Cheats" and the Game title. 

Day one things are glorious.  I get about 200 extra visitors, I’m buying in at 2 cents a click, I’m making $9 CPM on the site, I’m buying traffic at $11 cpm, not cheap, but not awful. 

Day Two: I notice that there are a lot of pages on the Internet with my ad text on it.

Day Three: None of the words which were running on the content network are affordable.  The price has gone from 2cents to $1.  Because there are now a bunch of sites with higher page rank with my keywords on them.

I have rarely had this problem in the past.  And there may be times when you can exploit this to your advantage.  If I have a phone number, this would be Amazing Free Advertising.

It also lends to some really great ideas for how to "Game" Adwords. Which would likely get you banned.  Why run ads against your own page? Got a phone number to promote, run ads that point to the top hit for what ever you are advertising, run only on the content network.

Have a competitor who is kicking your butt?  Run ads that say they suck and put those on the content network, now when people search for their name all of these ad hits will come up saying they suck.

You would think that if we aren’t allowed to modify Google’s ad code this wouldn’t happen.  You would also think that Google would detect this and punish sites that were doing it.

Apparently your ads don’t have to always be presented the way you expect.  In addition to your ads being converted to static text so they can run in Opposition to your site in search. You may find they are presented as jscript, but made to look not like an ad.

Not Quite the stock Adsense code, or look.

You don’t get to the top of the Adsense ladder by following the rules.

So am I exaggerating? A little.  In a few days my ads will stop running because I won’t pay enough to keep my ads running, and in a few days after that those pages that had run those ads will stealing someone else’s ads, and my ads will start up again if I haven’t paused the campaign and the vicious cycle will start over.

Assuming that works out to 50% of the time, I’m only making this twice the deal it really is.

05.12.08

I hate Twitter, even if it is 3 minutes faster than the USGS

Posted in Responses, Scoble at 1:09 pm by Brandon Wirtz

Twitter Beats (Wow, By 3 Minutes) The USGS With China Earthquake News I couldn’t agree more Danny. So much so I barely know where to start.

I’m apparently not ADD enough, or lonely enough, or self righteous enough (and I am all of those) to like twitter.

I get IM.  And I get Blogging.  But I don’t understand wanting to have this stream of things in other people’s lives all day.

I guess that is why I hate Facebook Apps. And MySpace, and those homeless people who want to tell me their life story as it happens as I walk along the street in San Francisco.

I’m big on Context and Authority this month.  If I could get a data feed of Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, or George W. Bush all day as it happened, what decisions they were making and why.  I’d join twitter.

Move the notch down a bit.  If I could get that for a handful of VC’s, Top management at a company I was working for.  I’d join twitter.

Robert Scoble.  I’m sorry Robert, I enjoy when we hang out, I always like talking with you, I think you are the embodiment of the blogger.  But ever since your posts dropped to less than 250 words most of the time I haven’t made daily stops to your site.

In fact here I made a  Yahoo Pipes RSS for posts by Scoble that are over that length.   Those looking for a daily fix be warned it averages one a week.

Mathew Ingram and I rarely agree, so it should come as no surprise that I would publicly ridicule anyone who wants to claim that twitter is offering more fair and accurate new coverage than mainstream media.

I will guess that Mathew wakes up to something other than NPR, which gave great coverage of "normal" people’s live during the California fires.

Even the BBC is on the Twitter Bandwagon.

Twitter is an ego tool.  A way to make everyone feel they have a voice.  And the only good thing it does is limit their whining to 140 characters.

This is a response to too many posts to give attribution to all of them, so don’t call me the next ArsTechnica.

05.11.08

Interesting Non-Results in YouTube, Flickr, and MetaCafe

Posted in Search Engines at 2:05 pm by Brandon Wirtz

As the results of my recent projects I’m building interesting maps of holes. Voids if you will, in the Internet.

I was importing Webster’s Unabridged dictionary and seeing interesting words I didn’t know existed and thinking I wonder what that looks like.

Well I have my own Video/Picture/Dictionary now at Digerat.com so here are some visuals that I thought warrant a video, but don’t return any.

Zamang (n.) An immense leguminous tree (Pithecolobium Saman) of Venezuela. Its branches form a hemispherical mass, often one hundred and eighty feet across. The sweet pulpy pods are used commonly for feeding cattle. Also called rain tree.

Palinurus (n.) An instrument for obtaining directly, without calculation, the true bearing of the sun, and thence the variation of the compass

Debuscope (n.) A modification of the kaleidoscope; — used to reflect images so as to form beautiful designs.

These were just a few that caught my eye.  Quick rush off and make videos of these and you can be the top hit for them…  I have 1000′s of others, and an interesting list of things which return results in one service but not another.  The Metacafe terms that are not in YouTube is one of the more fascinating.

05.10.08

Powerset should Sell

Posted in Money, Responses, Search Engines at 5:29 pm by Brandon Wirtz

I like what I have seen of Powerset, but… and this is a big but, they have spent a lot of time learning how to search 2 sites.  2 sites that are well edited, are supposed to be reasonably encyclopedic.

That makes it Cool, but a long ways from done.

Consider the following Passages which mean exactly the same thing, but are written in the style of two very different bloggers.

Powerset leverages the power of Natural Language Search to discern what you are searching for.  This allows it to determine the difference between positive and negative positions, so if you are search for "Plants that are not Vegetables" Powerset will return articles about Fruits, and Legumes.

The above is "Encyclopedic" but just as useful, and more typical of web pages is the following…

The dudes at Powerset have a Search Engine that pulls results using normal English.  So rather than answers that are bogus because they have all of the words "Plants that are not Vegetables" it knows you are looking for fruits, or legumes.

The first is a LOT easier for a machine to parse.  Any Yoda style post that would be fine for a human is going to wreak havoc with a "natural language" search.

Powerset searches with the Language of Nature they do.  Results from the meaning of your words they find. Seeking "Plants that are not Vegetables" yields Fruits and Legumes, not mis-placed pages with those words upon them. MMMM

Teaching a computer to understand context in sentences with regular word order is not particularly difficult.  Working with a sample size that is 1/1 millionth the size of the Internet is not easy, but is a small feat compared to what is needed to Index everything on the planet. 

And to be entirely honest searching Wikipedia is easy because pretty much everything in it is a Noun.  What do I mean by this?

Wikipedia is no help if you are looking for "Setting up Exchange Server"  You don’t need natural language to parse this question.  but finding the answer is hard.  Because you will encounter all sorts of things that look like they are the answer in the real world.  "I need help setting up an Exchange server" is going to appear, and there will be very technical looking things surrounding the statement, but it won’t be the answer to the question.

Conversely finding the answer to "who was the first president of the USA?" can be broken down.

Who = Person search

Was = In the past not the present

The = the question is singular

First = question implies there were more than one

President = a Noun likely what we are looking for.

Of = Modifier of President so subset of the answers

the USA = Specific Modifier

Run a search no results found, so you run parts through a Synonym engine. 

the USA = United States

Poof you now have an easy task, search for "a person" with "first president" and "United States" hopefully in the same sentence.

I haven’t gotten to play with the tool, but would it get the equally "natural language" answer to "Who was Voted the First American President?"  or "Who First Filled the Role of US President?"

Don’t get me wrong I think PowerSet has a future.  But I think in the near term it is in Answering questions about "small" sets of data, not the web in general.  eHow would be benefited, Microsoft Encarta, Project Gutenberg, and as more an more of these data sources were indexed Powerset can get better, and can be ready to deal with News Sites, and from there, it might be able to break in to Blogging, but it will take a very long time to make it work for the Internet in General. 

Or Perhaps making people write in a style that is easy for computers to parse will be a good thing for SEO in the future.

This is a response to:

Michael Arrington: Powerset’s Dilemma: Go For It, Or Sell

Apple’s 2g iPhone Shortage prior to 3g iPhone release

Posted in Apple at 2:34 pm by Brandon Wirtz

AT&T is making a big push to get the "2g" iPhone’s to as many fence sitters as possible before the 3g version ships.  The 2g iPhone puts much less load on the AT&T infrastructure, as the dial-up speed surfing limits how functional the web interface really is.

As the 3g version roles out AT&T will see a major increase in their costs per subscriber do to an increase in data usage.  This "stock piling" has been so great that you can’t even get an iPhone from the Apple Online store at the moment.

With Production ramping up for the 3g version which should debut in late June, or just in time for Independence day, there just aren’t enough 2g’s to go around.  While stores in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area are stocked to the gills, Apple stores in other regions are out, with no date for restock.

Likely Apple will continue to make the crippled "2g" version of the iPhone for quite sometime in parallel to the 3g version, as it will be the preferred phone for Carriers that want to minimize the number of users that saturate their data capabilities.  Expect to see a heavier subsidy on the 2g iPhone from AT&T than you do the 3g.

This is a response to:

iPhone Currently Unavailable At US Apple Store Online?

and

iPhone "currently unavailable" at Apple Store

Side note:

Congrats to Gadgetking.com for breaking this story at 2am. 

Three Reasons Not To Use Disqus

Posted in Responses at 12:23 pm by Brandon Wirtz

Fred at A VC, wants me/all of us to use Disqus.  But Fred doesn’t make a living blogging, so I think he misses some important points.

I think Disqus makes a lot of sense for the commenter, but as the Author, I don’t like it.

One of the problems with Disqus is that someone who is an ass to my competitor, may be a star on my site.  I don’t want my users getting the boot if they behave when they are at my place.

The Second problem with Disqus is that I don’t get the e-mail address of all of my users.  So when one of them does something that results in the FBI at my doorstep I can’t just have them fill out a form and be on their way, I instead have to explain that I don’t have it, and send them to Disqus at which point they hault my business until they have been satisfied that I’m not lying.

The Third problem is I get 0 benefit from the keywords in my comments if I use Disqus.  If I write a brilliant post about a the effects of being bi-polar and never mention Manic Depressives, but the commenter does, I just scored points with Google.  Disqus steals that from me.  

Fred if you want me to use your product you are going to have to address these 3 problems because I will take ugly comments that make me money over shiny comments that don’t. Think Google Vs Ms. Dewey.

This is a Response to:

Three Reasons To Use Disqus

 

Update:

Also I prefer my users respond on their blog, because harsh as this sounds if you are making a short point ugly comments are fine, and if you are making a log point you should do it on a blog, so that you benefit, I benefit, and our collective audiences benefit.

05.08.08

The Value of Facebook, Techmeme, or any Other Scoble Favorite

Posted in Google, Microsoft, Responses, Search Engines, Technology News, Yahoo at 12:00 am by Brandon Wirtz

Microsoft is moving on to Facebook.  Poor MSFT what are you thinking?  Facebook isn’t getting rich on it’s ad strategy.  If it was it wouldn’t have wanted your money the last time you invested in them.  If you are shopping to compete with GOOG then quit looking at big players that aren’t competing, and start looking at little players who might if they had the money.

Despite agreeing with Scoble on the idea that the Google Model’s days are numbered, it is not because Social Sites like Facebook are going to replace them, it is because eventually people are not going to need to go looking, the tools will just know what you want.

I have been working on a Techmeme Style product that works off of your OPML file.  Anyone can have their own Meme, bought the domain it is practically ready to launch.  Only trouble, the CPU requirements are HUGE.  Maybe I’ll convert it to run on Google’s servers….  Oh wait that makes Google Relevant again.

Robert is right the current model will become more like Techmeme and more like Mahalo.com and more like FaceBook… But Google is not going to sit there and do nothing.  Google adapts and grows.

I can see all of the pieces being made ready to jump on any of us that are testing the waters, after WE figure out what works.  Google doesn’t need to have a finished product just enough beta bits to make sure that whatever models start to look like they could work can be crushed.

Insert your favorite explicative, Google can crush me at any moment just by de-listing me, same for Mahalo.  If Google said, "Hey Jason Calacanis your site is just a very pretty splog, or at least that is what we are going to claim so our stocks don’t fall on news that Techmeme’s crowd says you’re going to crush us in 3 years"  well Mahalo revenue would drop 80% over night and the 3 years that it takes to recoup the cost of a post would now take 15.  That would end the butt kicking.

I just found out about Google "Sets"  which looks a lot like what I have been talking about for the last 3 months with figuring out what a set of words category is, so that you can tune the results contextually.  If I know that the last 100 searches you did were about food, I know a Chili Dog is just a Chili Dog.  If the last 100 searches you did were X rated I know that you are looking for something a bit grosser.

This is just one of the pieces that form the Lego’s that Google is building.  And it is one of the public ones, we don’t get to see the ones they don’t care to share.  Matt Cutts only tells us what it is in Google’s interest to tell us.

If you read my "rant" about Greatest Living American, you start to get where I’m going with this.  This week the "right answer" to who is the Greatest Living American is "Brandon Wirtz" or "Steven Colbert".  That is the only time it should be this.  If my mom gives her 3rd graders the task of writing an essay on who they think the Greatest Living American is you don’t want them to write about Perry Como, Night of the Living Dead, or How to make grilled cheese because they used Mahalo.  And I don’t want them to say it is me because they used Google And really Norman Borlaug may not be the "right" answer but it is the only answer I could find that wasn’t me or Steven.

Results that are free from the possibility of manipulation is part of the future of search.  Results that are contextually relevant to the searcher is part of the future of search.  Results that are contextually relevant to the events of the moment are part of the future of search.

When Oprah has someone on her show for the next 12 hours a perfect search engine would know that 90% of the people looking for that person wants to know about that person "through" Oprah.  Similarly when "Don’t forget the Lyrics" is on searches for things that look very similar to words from a song are about a song, not about what ever the words are about.  "Feet Down Below His Knee" is not about how one sprints, or trousers  (isayhello gets this wrong too since I don’t have a large enough Lyric library to reference, but I get it right with a YouTube video).

Google Is starting to get this, as Two days ago above search results for Greatest Living American was a link to CNN’s article about the Colbert Webby.  All of the points that I and Scoble make about the future of search, and what our "Dashboards for Life" will look like Google is building.

The people who aren’t getting this seemingly is Microsoft.  They are in such a race to show they get it by cutting a check they are missing all of the small innovative companies that are making it work.  I would encourage MSFT to buy Mahalo.  (Jason if they cut you a check for $300 million  I want 1% for putting the idea out there)  Because Mahalo brings a piece of the Pie that is needed, Human summarized results.  There is not enough CPU or a large enough database to classify things the way an army of volunteers/cheap labor can.  Mahalo can take the 100 things each hour that people are looking for, and sort them, compile a headline, and find the source of the trend in record time, and if MSFT wants me to use Live.com as a Landing page that is part of what they need.

If Microsoft wants to by Techmeme, I would root them on. Gabe Rivera has proven that he can create Meme’s for various subjects, and I’m sure if someone paid him he could create 300 Meme’s that fit personality profiles for 80% of the people out there, and that would make them happy to start their day on a Microsoft site, and you know what most of those people’s search results could be filtered through the sites in their Meme.

I’m sorry I don’t support the Facebook buy.  They just don’t know how to make people happy. I thought Facebook Apps had potential, but they are all such time wasters.  I really wanted to like them.  Stack on that Facebook doesn’t really know how to monetize their users, and I don’t see anything in Facebook that isn’t in LinkedIn.  If LinkedIn goes the way of Facebook, I’m dropping it.

This is a response to:

Anders Bylund: Microsoft is probing Facebook’s merger interest

SmoothSpan Blog: Is Microsoft Playing Possum for Yahoo? It Could Be Much Worse!

Jim Goldman: Microsoft’s About Face With Facebook—Is It In Writing?

MG Siegler: The Microsoft buying Facebook rumors commence, again

Joel Evans: Is Microsoft still shopping?

Nicholas Carlson: Microsoft’s plan for Web growth, minus Yahoo and Facebook

05.07.08

Dev Log set up for iSayHello.com

Posted in Site News at 12:41 pm by Brandon Wirtz

So that I don’t post those posts here any more I’ve set up a Dev Log at iSayHello.

It will have all my posts about adding things and revisions and such.

05.06.08

Search Results that are Right, not Bombed, I am not the Greatest Living American Despite what Google Says

Posted in Google, Responses at 9:16 am by Brandon Wirtz

PR Web and CNN have sent the search term Greatest Living American to the top of the trends list, once again.  As Colbert was just made Webby Person of the year and the press release claimed him to be Greatest Living American.   Well not so fast my Bear Hating Foe!  I earned that title Fair and Square, and so 3,000 people an hour are searching right now and finding my name, not yours at the top of the chart.

I am the Greatest Living American Search Engine Optimizer as well.  So if you want to enjoy the rewards that come from a top ranking you should send an e-mail to Brandon at Xyhd.tv .

That said.  I want to point out that doing the search on my search engine (isayhello.com) returns a more correct result, a great article from The Huffington Post about Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

It then goes on to links about the race for Greatest Living American and Steven Colbert, because if you were searching today that is what you were really looking for.  Not my name.

The race for Greatest Living American was part of why I started ISayHello.com .  Search results should not be so easy to manipulate, and they should return what you were looking for, not what some one wants to show you.

Jonah Stein, Rand Fishkin, and even I, make our livings manipulating "The Google" for fun and profit.  And we are the "good" guys.  There are thousands of Black Hats that spend their day figuring out how to get the most traffic for terms so they can infect you with ad and spyware, or sell you herbal viagra. 

As Scott Karp points out, there is too much of the same thing, and too many people competing to be at the top that don’t deserve to be. Everyone who wants to be on the A list has to cover all the top stories.  And everyone who wants to climb off the B list has to out rank them.  The result is that we end up getting top news results from XYHD.tv rather than the Huffington Post.  Don’t get me wrong I think I add to the story, but I should be number 2 after you read the facts, you can read my OpEd on the topic.

Key Word Search is broken, and strictly computer generated search is broken.  A hybrid is the future, and I’m working to get it there.

This is a response to:

Colbert wins ‘Webby Person of the Year’

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