Hooray to Mie and Dav who just finished 24 hours of non-stop blogging.
As I look for the cross-section of schools and interesting-but-reasonably-priced places to exist (does such a thing exist in the Bay Area?) I found myself wanting for a school district map overlayed on top of a map showing available placed to live. I’ve found pieces of the puzzle:
In the course of looking for a tool that could tie zip codes to neighborhoods to school districts, I ran across this wonderful site by MIT Media Lab doctoral candidate, Ben Fry. His interactive Zip Code tool is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in awhile.
UPDATE: Now 10 years later Google Maps has started to layer this information as an extension of their Google Maps service. Check out the mash-up of greatschools.org ratings and Google Maps.
Check out more mashups at the Google Maps Gallery.
Write up in CNet on a dark secret known amongst the interactive advertising industry. There are a number of sites out there which artificially generate banner clicks from automated bots and use that to scam Google, Overture, and other ad syndication networks which serve up advertising and pay out commissions for clickthroughs.
This pay-for-performance gaming of the system has a counterpart in the music industry. In London, I heard cases where a record company would hire students to hit the record stores around town and buy up copies of an artist they would want to promote. The volume in sales would push that artist up on the charts and generate a hit. In the US this practice was applied to radio stations where a radio syndicate would be paid to play a hit song more regularly than other songs. This practice was called, "payola"
Another slant on this story on tainted metrics is the Mozilla plug-in Bug-Me-Not which "liberates" sites that require registration by providing a collective pool of user accounts that can be shared among its members. I always wondered why Factiva.com had customers in Afghanistan until I realized that this country was the first (and thus default) country on our registration drop down. Users listed from this country were probably just too lazy to pick their own.
With Bug-Me-Not shared IDs, it’s even easier to share such skewed profiles. I wonder how many Accountants from Afghanistan are part of the nytimes.com demographic?
Infoworld’s Jon Udell posts outtakes from his interview with Quentin Clark, the director of program management for Microsoft’s WinFS that will serve as core technology of the next generation of Windows code-named Longhorn. Of particular interest is his take on Outlook’s current limitations and the problems posed by trying to work through this:
. . . The limitation of Outlook 11 is that it doesn’t allow you to put an item in more than one user lassoing. We want to allow multiple lists, or folders, where you can put the same thing in both. We’re removing that Outlook limitation.
We encountered significant design challenges around user experience and expectations, and also problems around the DAG (directed acyclic graph). Consider security. I take an item, it lives in a bunch of folders, what is the security on that thing? Folder 2 has it too, then moves to folder 3. All the way back on folder 1, does the owner have any way to know what’s happened? Then there’s naming. If I have a doc, call it “jon’s doc,” created in a single folder, then I want to have it appear twice in that same folder, what is it called? If it’s in a second folder, and I delete it from folder 1, then at some point I rename folders and put the doc back, calculating namespaces becomes complex.
Lexis, the legal research division of Reed Elsevier, announced enhancements to a product called Total Search. Included in the enhancements is the ability to hook into a firm’s document management system and bring back an aggregated set of search results.
LexisNexis Total Search also identifies, correlates, and links case citations appearing within internal work product and LexisNexis search results. These citations are noted, and access to the internal work product is provided, through a “correlation” icon appearing next to a particular case or code citation within an internal document result, LexisNexis full-text document or in a LexisNexis cite list.
Not clear from the literature how easy it is to integrate Total Search as either an outbound feed to downstream search engines or as a platform to receive and integrate inputs from other systems such as email and newsfeeds.
Today I’m launching a new category to follow the march of progress of alternatives to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. After following Mozilla Firefox for several months, I’ve now made Firefox 0.9.1 my default web browser on my Windows machine. I’m impressed with the speed of it’s rendering engine and the open source aspect has added a healthy suite of plug-ins and extensions. The tipping point for changing the browser default came when I ran across an extension that allowed me to right-click on any web page viewed using Firefox and view that page within IE.
As a first post on Browsers, I link to a post on BoingBoing which outlines how quickly (31 hours!) the open source community was able to react to and patch Firefox in response to discovering a security vulnerability. This turnaround time is especially significant when put into context with all the recent hubbub over security holes for those using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer including an official warning from US-CERT.
Surprise, Surprise. Lookout, the Outlook add-in that I’ve been touting for some time now, has been scooped up by the MSN division of Microsoft. They will be rolling in Lookout’s universal search technology into the next generation MSN search technology. Nothing more than vague musing right now but the statements from the Microsoft press release below points to a vision where MSN will reach into your email box and hard disk connecting internet searches with queries on your inbox and hard drive.
This acquisition builds on the range of new and updated services MSN launched July 1 for its MSN Search service. As part of a $100 million investment in improving the customer experience, MSN delivered its most significant upgrade to MSN Search, introducing several changes designed to help give people faster, cleaner and easier access to the information they want. Specific improvements included a new MSN Search home page (at http://search.msn.com/) that features easy navigation to popular MSN services; a new, cleaner look for its search results page that separates algorithmic results from paid results and eliminates paid inclusion; direct access to popular information sources such as Encarta®, the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia brand*; and extensive performance improvements.
These improvements were initial steps toward achieving the MSN vision of taking search beyond today’s basic Internet search services to delivering direct answers to people’s questions from a broad range of information. As part of this vision, MSN will launch a new algorithmic search engine and a range of other search services within a year. With the acquisition of Lookout, MSN adds additional expertise and technology that will contribute to this vision.
Time to add mentions of “algorithmic search engine” to my clipping profile for news about Microsoft Search.
Adam Penenberg writes in his Wired story, Searching for The New York Times, that there is a very real financial incentive for the NYT web site to continue to hide it’s stories behind a subscription wall. A $20 million/year all-you-can-eat royalty agreement with Lexis-Nexis is an awfully hard arrangement to tear up. John Battelle noodles on this idea a bit more and ponders when the attraction of differentiated revenue from individuals, finding stories on their own via Google and other search engines, will outweigh the guaranteed revenue stream from L-N. He also adds:
What revenue stream accounts for the lion’s share of search’s margin? Advertising. That’s a one legged stool ready to tip over. As the search giants become more and more media companies, they must develop subscription services, and because users won’t want to pay for something they already believe is free (searching) search engines will have to figure out a way to become middlemen to paid content. After all, they own distribution, so they should become…distributors. Were they to execute this service in a scaled and elegant fashion, it might be viewed as a benefit – in many cases, subscribers will get more content for less than they were paying in the past (that’s the benefit of volume).
Google as a portal to premium content? Haven’t we been there before? One comment to John’s post points out that this has been AOL’s model for the past 10 years. Yahoo has continually tried to push premium services and could easily bundle in targeted content. Northern Light also blazed this trail but flamed out after a failure to bring together enough content.
There are many ways to get to content and Google is the current flavor of the month. Of greater demand is having a single account that aggregates access fees to each site for a reasonable monthly fee. Why pay nytimes.com and wsj.com separately when you’d rather pay a single bill for unfettered access to these sites and more? Yes, Google has the distribution network but PayPal or American Express might be a better player for a unified subscription account. After setting up unified subscription fees, the next step is working with each of the major content vendors on feeding RSS feeds of their content to the major search engine vendors so that their content begins to move up in the rankings. Portions of the proceeds of the subscription fees could then go to each of the search engine vendors, paid out as a proportion of the amount of traffic they drive to the payment vendor for signup. $40/month sounds about right – we’ll call it a “global media press pass.”
UPDATE: Cory cuts to the chase on boingboing.net
The NYT’s registration system and expiring pages have doomed them to google-obscurity. Wired News argues that they’ve gone from being the paper of record to a Web-era irrelevancy, and all to protect a Lexis-Nexis agreement and to bring in two to three percent of the digital division’s profits.
Today I announced my resignation from Factiva. I’ve been contemplating a move for several months now and the starts aligned in such a way to open up a door for me (thanks Mie!) at Six Apart, the folks who put out the software that allows me to create this site. I’ve had a good run with Factiva, starting in 1996 with a stint at Dow Jones based in Tokyo, the birth of a Factiva, relocation to the Princeton headquarters, and a two year run at managing the flagship product, Factiva.com. Everytime things got a little boring, Factiva always managed to find something interesting for me to sink my teeth into. A lot of thinking went into this decision and it’s become clear to me in this process that an incremental change of job title is not enough and it’s really time for me to shift gears and jump into a new company.
I made the decision last night to accept Six Apart’s offer and while waiting for my boss to get off the phone so I could tell him of my decision, I strolled down to the credit union to close my account. I was grilled by the teller there for my reason’s to close down the account:
“Why do you need to close your account?”
“I’m transferring (me not wanting to break the news before telling my boss)”
“A lot of people keep their accounts even if they are located elsewhere”
“I’m, err, actually transferring to another company.”
“That’s ok, you can even get your new company to deposit their paychecks here, I just want to inform you of your options.”
“Um, that’s ok, I’m actually going to be quite far away.”
“That’s not a problem, we have electronic. . .”
“No, really, that’s not necessary. I just want to close out the account. . . ”
“OK then, but you know there’s a $5 charge to close your account. Good luck to you.”
Today was a day of telling selective people the news – after the first few, it became easier and easier to broach the topic. I feel like a skydiver who has just pulled the rip-cord and now am reaching terminal velocity for what I hope will be a safe landing – GERONIMO!