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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Legal Documents & Forms People Want Online

Today I was searching for a document to handle a legal matter and turned up all manner of things I didn't need and very little I sought. The experience of seeking a specific document and being unable to find it puzzled me because there are so many places to find things if you can simply form the proper query in a search engine text box. To be clear here, I wasn't using a generic phrase like "Legal Documents" - I searched for the specific form I needed, using modifiers and negative terms, restricting to sites, and checking variables. When I didn't turn up the specific document I was after, I did a bit of keyword research. "What kind of geek would do that? A search engine geek. ;-)

Here's the type of legal forms and documents people search (guess what - nobody else seems to search for that one document I needed).

Legal Documents, Forms & Templates People Look for Online - Get more legal forms

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Video: Powerset Search Engine Beta Test

Powerset Demo Video from officialpowerset on Vimeo.

First thing I noticed is that the thing is down - I can't get any queries to load. Could be a bad day because Microsoft is rumored to be considering acquisition of Powerset and the news caused enough interest to overload their servers tonight. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt unless it continues to happen. Meanwhile, enjoy the video and give it a try yourself. I'd be interested in hearing comments on how it worked for you.

The blog post from nearly 4am this morning suggests that it was a late night at Powerset labs - and it appears they have a few more late nights overcoming whatever is causing the server response times that make me give up and go away. But that blog post also shows that they get marketing because they suggest that bloggers go look at their press coverage news page (which they mistakenly call a "Social Media News Release" - nope) and links to, Flickr, and a help page.

Actually, I just got it to load on a final test before giving up for the night. The results didn't impress for the searches I tried. They did suggest that I search for something that interests me. So I guess I didn't try something that can be found at Wikipedia or Freebase - which they are currently drawing on for the beta results. Now it's locking up again and not returning results. Well, looks promising if it starts working as advertised in that video. ;-)

Update, saw a twitter post from Powerset they had hit the pages of SlashDot and that was causing the overload. Well OK, I'll excuse the slow server times.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Post Once, Change All, Spam Once, Spam Everywhere

It's truly a strange world online now. Google is rumored to be on the verge of an announcement on Monday that would make all social media data portable, connectable and linkable. How strange would it be to post to your favorite social networking site with an update like, say maybe adding a new friend - and instantly update any of your other social profiles with that change or addition?

Michael Arrington, first with many big announcements because businesses (and insiders, and PR departments and...) know the attention level of a TechCrunch post can beat (or lead as the source) for National Media outlets.

Well, Arrington is speculating (or leaking) that Google is about to launch "Friend Connect" following on the heels of the Yahoo Open Strategy announcement, the MySpace Data Availability announcement, then the FaceBook response to the MySpace announcement with Facebook Connect announcement and now, a truly strange service called OnlyWire bookmarklet for posting links to social bookmarking services - all of them - at ONCE.

Despite the fact that many want those services to be shared by different groups of friends, coworkers, or family - this is a very interesting development in what it means to be social, what being social means to search visibility and how this might affect spamming for SEO. Want a sample? Check out this Google Search for Xoost - a truly bizarre result-set.

If that group of Xoost search results doesn't concern you about how multi-posting and single source updates to social bookmarking sites might be abused for search engine spamming, then you have nerves of steel.

For perfect clarity - I am not labeling any site, service or company mentioned here as spammers - I fear for the abuse of this newest development as taking a step too far toward openness, so that all of them could be abused horribly. Yes, with proper attention, only briefly - but it's like standing on the precipice looking down several stories to a river of sewage we could fall into.

What is the right amount of openness, portability and single source updating? I don't have a clue - but I worry that the noise level could go up dramatically and search relevance could suffer in an escalating "openness" arms race.

I've had my nervous moment now - let's hope it doesn't get as ugly as all that.

Update shows that Friend Connect from Google is different from the expectations and not joining in the portability madness in the way I had feared - whew! Below is a Google video on this new social networking tool.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Google News Showing AP & Reuters Video's Inline

Google News showing news video from Reuters and Associated Press video (posted at YouTube) in both search results and on home page.

obama clinton - Google News
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

This was apparently announced without fanfare on the Google News Blog back on the 21st of August of 2007. Barry Schwartz blogged about it at SearchEngineLand that same day. Did nobody care about this? I hadn't heard about it until I noticed the little tiny word "video" next to a "+" sign to expand it tonight - over 8 months later. Hmmm. I'm on Google News daily and hadn't seen this before and hadn't heard anyone talking about it.

Clicking through takes you to the AP or Reuters channels at YouTube.

Testing this "How To Video" widget.

more cool how to videos

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Startups in Social Content Sharing

Microsoft / Yahoo Merger Off: Ballmer Walks Away

Well, it's over, thank goodness. Microsoft has walked away from their unsolicited bid for Yahoo. Whew! Deep sigh of relief from many Yahoo senior employees. But predictions are for an ugly day on Wall Street for Yahoo Monday morning - with a potential return by Microsoft with a lower bid after Yahoo tanks in the markets.

It's frustrating to those of us who love search to watch this epic battle, knowing that Microhoo may yet emerge from the burning embers. I commented in my last post that the Yahoo Open Strategy announced by Ari Balogh last week at Web 2.0 introduced some exciting prospects for the future of search if they can successfully pull it off and Microsoft doesn't win the merger through a lower offer and proxy battle. Well nobody has even commented in the news about the effect the YOS could have, not even Microsoft.

Maybe I'm way off base with this one, but I'm going to stick to my assertions until we see how this all shakes out. If Yahoo survives to stand on it's own and can put together the strategy for opening up their entire network to developers in a sweeping move like they've outlined - I predict that Yahoo could overtake Google in two years - but only if Google stands still and watches - which is not likely either.

Danny Sullivan has an excellent analysis and commentary on the Microsoft / Yahoo / Microhoo battle. I'm surprised that he didn't bring up Yahoo Open Strategy either - is it because nobody expects them to survive to see where that could take them? What if the merger happened - would Ballmer nix YOS?

I'm no Yahoo fan. I've disliked their strategy for years, I hate how they buy up companies and then kill them off or let them die within Yahoo, I can't believe they didn't leverage GeoCities and Yahoo Groups to become a social networking leader. I'm astonished that they aren't more profitable than they are because they emphasize monetization above audience satisfaction and utility. (Yahoo mail still doesn't allow pop access unless you pay for it when gmail allows this access, even using imap.) So I don't use my Yahoo mail account except to log in to the few services I use like MyBlogLog, Yahoo Groups and Flickr.

The public seems completely uninterested in the whole thing if Google Trends is any indication. The chart showing searches for the story and news stories seem to drive little interest. (click to enlarge)

Google Trends: yahoo, microsoft
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Well - I will once again throw out a cautious cheer for Yahoo and hope that they survive the Wall Street rollercoaster to pursue Yahoo Open Strategy as it is their best hope for a true contribution to search. Without YOS - it's over for Yahoo IMHO.

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