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July 2008 Marketing Archives

Friday, July 04, 2008

Google's Street View is Watching…You

I'm always sure that a technology has gone mainstream when I get a call from one of my relatives.

I was having a conversation with my uncle today when he mentioned that Google Street View -- a map that has panoramic views of streets taken with cameras mounted on cars -- was getting into some trouble.

Two things struck me:

  1. His initial thought associated Google Street View with trouble (you better watch what you do when you go outside); and
  2. He thought it was really, really cool

Welcome to the world we live in. The country is completely up in arms about wiretapping by the federal government, but absolutely cool with a company creating a street-level view of our world.

Which is likely to be more invasive? Both.

Which is likely to be less concerning? Google. The reason: we can all use Google Street View. It's not in the hands of a secretive group like the FBI.

Some of the coolest functions on Street View is that you can virtually tour the United States, checking out landmarks to…well…big ass donuts.

Of course, everything isn't worked out in terms of splicing images together. Privacy advocates made Google brush out faces of people, which leads to some interesting -- invisible man -- shots.

But the panopticon is here. We're recording each other recording each other. We're mapping it, taking our real world and creating a better -- searchable -- version of it.

 

Google's Street View is Watching…You By Brad at 05:18 PM
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Boing Boing: A Lesson in Brand Identity

The Web is one of the most vibrant tools for connectivity, but too often we don't think about what it means to exist online.

In the real world, we monitor what people say about us in a variety of ways: water cooler talk, non-verbal communication and friend networks (among others). Online, we tend to believe that we have the same kinds of control over how people perceive us.

That's not the case as marketing companies are finding out.

A recent study found that 53 percent of companies don't have a plan in place for a "marketing emergency" that happens online.

And no company is immune to it, even Web-natives such as Boing Boing, one of the largest -- and oldest -- blog communities.

The site, which has millions of users, is a collection of interested tidbits compiled by four smart tech folks who get tips from their readers. Last year, some post comments were removed and one year later -- just this week -- the blogosphere went crazy (check out the near 1,500 comments the revelation spawned).

Admittedly, the Boing Boing editors didn't expect such a firestorm -- and as a result, they've spent the past several days trying to work out their policy on removing comments. But it's happening in a very public way.

This is not a bad thing, mind you. Just…unexpected for them.

The lesson: no matter how entrenched you are, one slip-up -- particularly when you're presence online is a large part of your identity -- can create serious headaches.

Boing Boing: A Lesson in Brand Identity By Brad at 04:34 PM
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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ask.com Quietly Becomes Ninth Largest Website

Expert sites have always been a part of the Internet culture.

Back in the "old days" -- the seventies and early eighties -- once the network was available to those who had access to personal computers (or university networks) and a modem, people would share information on message boards or through email.

Collaboration was the name of the game.

Eventually the Web came along and then search engines, giving people an increasing amount of power when it came to finding answers. The message networks still exist (check out Google Groups for an archive of some of them), but people are more likely to Google and answer or ask someone who is in their online social network.

Or so I thought.

Turns out experts are still in demand (with apologies to Andrew Keen, of course). I know this because Ask.com just acquired the Lexico Publishing Group, owners of Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com and Reference.com.

The acquisition gives the company 145 million users each month (thanks to the 15 million bump from Lexico) and makes it the ninth most visited site on the Web.

Now this isn't going to help re-invigorate the user groups I once trafficked, but it does create an interesting proposition for those who aren't as well versed in keyword search as those of us who spend too much time online.

Ask.com parses out information in silos (much like Yahoo once did), narrowing effective searches right from the start. (This is different than Google, which doesn't ask users to winnow from the start.)

In other words, it asks you to be the expert about what you are searching for instead of using natural language (like Ask once did) to find information.

Ask.com Quietly Becomes Ninth Largest Website By Brad at 03:59 PM
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Court To Force Google to Turn Over Data about You

For those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time (inordinate, I said, not unhealthy), concerns about privacy loom overhead like a dark storm cloud.

 

Not the privacy you see: credit card information, medical records.

We all keep a watchful eye on those and anomalies are reported quickly. The real danger comes from the hidden privacy, the data that is collected while we surf the Web, watch videos, read stories and click on links.

Despite assurances and promises from big media companies that our personal data -- that user name, password, IP address -- will never be used or sold, we know that we're standing on the precipice of a very steep and slippery slope.

The fact is most sites have a great deal of data about us. Particularly Google.

And now a federal judge has ruled that the eponymous search giant must turn over all of its user data is has for YouTube, it's equally eponymous video site. The reason: Viacom has sued Google for copyright violation, claiming that most of its growth is due to copyrighted content uploaded.

The only way to figure that out, Viacom said, is to look at exactly who has been watching what.

What's interesting -- as Mark Cuban points out and ReadWriteWeb follows -- is that if its found that Google actively removes pornography from the site, as some have suggested, the company would lose any legal protection it has from Viacom, which could do two things:

  1. Put Viacom in control of Google depending on the monetary damages assessed
  2. Make your personal data open and available to the major media companies

Court To Force Google to Turn Over Data about You By Brad at 03:44 PM
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Blockbuster Drops Circuit City Bid

You know you've made a bad move when your stock jumps 14 percent after you decide to pull out of a potential purchase.

That's exactly what happened today when Blockbuster formally dropped its buyout bid for Circuit City. Shares of the nation's largest brick-and-mortar video rental store jumped 14 percent on news that it would no longer pursue a partnership with Circuit City.

The deal never really made sense to me.

As we move ever-more-digital, it makes little sense for two businesses -- two completely different businesses -- that rely on foot traffic to try to merge. It makes more sense for Blockbuster and Netflix to look for a partnership -- or strangely enough, for Blockbuster and UPS to strike a deal.

Wait, UPS? Huh?

It turns out that UPS is more than just a package delivery service. They also go in and evaluate your internal structures, help you modify them and compete in a global marketplace by streamlining operations.

And they are really, really good at it.

With Blockbuster looking for a way to compete with Netflix, a partnership like this only makes sense. Not one with Circuit City.

Blockbuster Drops Circuit City Bid By Brad at 05:42 PM
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Microsoft Search Aims to Interpret Meaning

For most of us, Google is best way to find information on the Web. We have a question, we type in a keyword and up pops just about anything we want.

Provided we guess the right keywords.

By and large, though, keywords are a pretty good way to find your way around the Web. But search technologists -- and linguists -- have been trying to get beyond the one-step, guess-and-enter world of search. They want to better understand what you are trying to find instead of which keyword matches.

It's called "semantic search" and some of the smartest minds on the planet are trying to figure it out. We're not there yet. Not even close. But big companies are beginning to dip their toes in the water.

Microsoft is close to finalizing a deal with Powerset, a company that uses natural language (e.g. "find me the nearest swimming pool" instead of "pool, Cincinnati, public") to come up with better search results (theoretically).

On the surface, natural language search doesn't sound all that exciting (unless you're a mathematician or a chip designer), but the ability to develop contextual means would make it far easier to find information on the Web. Michael Arrington lays it out very well at Tech Crunch, where they also have an audio interview (with transcript) with the founders of Powerset:

A query such as “who wrote catcher in the rye” using normal keyword search will attempt to find those very words, while with Powerset and natural language search it will analyze what the user is actually looking for, even though there may not be a website that directly spells out “who wrote catcher in the rye”. The technology is all based on analyzing the users intention when searching based on the words they use.

Why the move?

Well as nice as it would be for you and I to have natural language searches, Microsoft has other designers. The company continues to lag behind Google and Yahoo in the search market and desperately needs to find the "new, new" thing if it wants to eclipse its rivals. Whichever company creates the best natural language search will have a leg up in the search wars.

Microsoft Search Aims to Interpret Meaning By Brad at 05:26 PM
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Innovation and Advertising Spending Grinds to a Halt

For the first time in 30 years, there were no initial public offerings by companies backed by venture capital and a dwindling number of mergers and acquisitions, a worrying factoid that hit the wires earlier today.

IPOs and investment in the technology sector represent a growing importance to the U.S. economy. New "information age" jobs replace the outsourcing and offshoring, giving America a competitive advantage in idea creation, a notion laid out by Thomas Friedman in his book, The World is Flat.

The IPO drought represents a dangerous trend to that sector because the offerings are used to generate cash for continued investment and development -- which fuels nearly 18 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

Of course, one dire quarter doesn't end the world; however, it's a fair warning sign that companies are hunkering down, preferring to wait out the current economic climate with whatever cash reserves they have while preparing to cash in once the numbers turn back around.

And not to compare apples-to-oranges (but I am going to), the advertising industry has seen a similar near-halt in spending growth.

So we're not pushing forward with investments nor encouraging people to buy new products.

Good times.

 

Innovation and Advertising Spending Grinds to a Halt By Brad at 11:05 AM
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Virtual World Population Stagnating

3d virtual worlds fascinate everyone but they haven't gained the type of traction that most people expected they would.

In 2002, my writing partner and I penned a narrative non-fiction book about the history -- and impact -- of computer games and virtual worlds. We were fascinated by them. We still are.

Six years later, though, the number of participants is only inching forward -- and the numbers of young people joining the ranks of virtual participants is at a near standstill, according to the LinuxInsider story:

Only 7 percent of Internet gamers ages 13 and older visit a virtual world on a weekly basis, compared with 37 percent who visit social networking sites and 41 percent who watch short videos online with the same frequency, according to a recent Parks Associates survey.

The reality is that we're probably still a few years away from these worlds going mainstream; however, the slowdown in growth certainly doesn't represent a slowdown in the growth of these worlds. Marketing companies, television networks, film studios and game designers continue to build these virtual spaces where people are just now learning what they can and can't do.

While it's not likely that most folks -- at least initially -- understand the big deal about The Matrix Online (answer: the last film came out in 2003 and this community is still thriving), they can understand this scenario:

You're shopping for an article of clothing online, but your reticent to see how it looks on you. In a virtual space, designers can virtually build representations of their products -- and you can build virtual representations of you -- with an increasing reality about them. You can enter your dimensions, check out the way articles hang on your represented body and make a decision on a purchase.

Or imagine going into a virtual Bank of America, speaking with a virtual teller and having them hand you a receipt for your transaction that downloads to your computer right there.

And if you think that behaviors online don't have some impact on your real world behavior, think again.

Virtual World Population Stagnating By Brad at 10:49 AM
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July 2008 Week 2 »

  • Week 1 (8 entries) July 1-5
  • Week 2 (10 entries) July 6-12
  • Week 3 (13 entries) July 13-19
  • Week 4 (14 entries) July 20-26
  • Week 5 (8 entries) July 27-31

Virtual World Population Stagnating
The main reason virtual worlds in general haven&ap...
by Dreamworld
Google's Street View is Watching…You
Haha. Well, I'm not sure we hate it when WE d...
by Brad King
Google's Street View is Watching…You
Like many things - it's a double edged sword....
by Pay Per Click Journal
Ask.com Quietly Becomes Ninth Largest Website
Hey thanks for reading. I wasn't commenting ...
by Brad King
Ask.com Quietly Becomes Ninth Largest Website
Wow...good to hear some positive news regarding As...
by Pay Per Click Journal

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