Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zune apocalypse? Google has the truth


There are reports of 30GB Zunes around the world freezing en masse.

With Google's hot trends we can see a stronger indicator of the truth. We're not looking at a number of reports. The search for [zune frozen] is now the most popular search in America.

That's a heck of a lot of Americans searching for the problem.

The screen grab on the left highlights how often Zune problems and requests for help with the Zune have made the top 50 most popular searches.

The problem is clearly a freeze. Currently, the #35 most popular search is [Zune stuck on loading screen] which gives us an even better idea of where the issue is.

You can tell that we've all become used to Microsoft technology. Currently the #25 most popular search is [reboot zune]. People now expect a reboot to solve problems. We then head into the other solution keyword searches of [zune troubleshooting] (at #4), [zune support] and [zune help].

Is this a Year 2009 or Year 2008 issue? A Y2K8 for the Zune? With Google trends we can drill down a little further. Let's explore the [zune frozen] search.

Google tracks nothing for [zune help] until the very start of Dec 31st at PST when the graph kicks in.

There are some things to note here:
  • Zunes around the world can't all be freezing - the Zune never made it around the world. It's not for sale here in the UK, for example.
  • Zunes are therefore found in a fairly tight timezone clump.
  • Google will be aggregating the data; an hour-by-hour analysis won't be that exact.
However, right now, it does look awfully as if Dec 31st 2008 may turn out to be something of a Zune apocalypse for Microsoft. This story is in its early stages but I suspect it'll be worth keeping an eye on.

Update: It seems true. The 30G Zunes have an issue although reports vary as to whether it was midnight or 2am on the 31st that they stopped working.

Microsoft is aware of the issue and told Ars Technica, "We are aware that customers with the Zune 30GB are experiencing issues with their Zune device. We are actively working now to isolate the issue and develop a solution to address it. We will keep customers informed on next steps via the support page on zune.net (zune.net/support)."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An idea for Sphinn: Something new

SphinnCon Israel 2008Image by BritishYosef via FlickrI'm all too aware that I don't make enough time for Sphinn. I wish I could love it more. The idea of a community/democratic search, social and affiliate news site is fantastic.

I saw its launch as a way of finding insights and brainy blog writers that I would never have otherwise found. Sadly, that's not what I get; what I get is the same Top 10 lists and SEO 101 repeated again and again.

Pete Wailes' recent discussion on whether Sphinn should become more like Techmeme made the hot list but also made clear that we weren't going to get that. I was also rather alarmed that people started blaming the community. I liked the idea I didn't support calling Sphinners stupid.

So why do the SEO 101 articles constantly make it to the hot list at Sphinn? The community rewards those submissions.

If I was to challenge a search veteran as to why they submitted something so basic as an SEO 101 article then, I think, they could justifiably say they wanted to share it with the community and were certain the community would want to see it. Sphinn would prove them right too; the submission would likely go hot.

That's the genesis of the 'something new' idea. Let's try and note whether the submitter is simply sharing something they think the mixed skill set at Sphinn will want to see - or whether they're submitting an article because *they personally* found it new and useful.

Here's the one-liner:
  • A "Something new to me" tickbox for every submission.
When you come to make any submission to Sphinn you can tick the box to indicate that you found something new in the article you're submitting. In other words you're not submitting a rehashed article that you think the Sphinn community wants to see.

I like the idea because it means Sphinners are investing a bit of their own personal reputation on their submissions. I think it would be (and should be) embarrassing for a search veteran to submit a SEO 101 article to Sphinn. I certainly wouldn't expect them to tick the 'something new' box.

In return I think posts flagged as 'something new' have a slight headstart towards the hot list. After all; you already have the reputation of the Sphinner and a signal from them that this is a particularly good submission.

What do you think? Crazy idea or cracking idea?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Telegraph thumped on the Andy Burnham interview


The Telegraph's interview with UK 's Culture Secretary bubbled up over the weekend and is now catching the attention of the international blogs.

The screen shot overhead is the Google.uk SERPS. You would think this was a navigational search - I started with [daily telegraph]. The onebox from Google News serves the first punch - arch rival newspaper The Guardian steals the top slot. I doubt Robert Winnett, deputy political editor at the Telegraph and who wrote the story, will be happy.

Google doesn't do the Telegraph any favours with the second result either. It's an Andy Burnham story but it's the wrong one. In fact, Google UK places the right Telegraph story in the embed third position with the Guardian in the #4 and #5 positions.

The search results are interesting because they highlight one of the many problems with Burnham's suggestion.
  • He's talking about regulating websites - but websites are dynamic. Google's search results depend entirely on what you search for. Would Google get a PG rating or an 18 rating? What rating would Facebook get?
  • Websites pull content in from different geographic locations. The Techtree.com image in the top right comes from India.
  • I got these results because I searched from the UK and a UK based ISP. If I did the very same Google search from one of the many National Express trains (free wi-fi) that criss-cross UK then I would have received Swedish results. As it happens the ISP which provides the wi-fi to National Express trains in the UK is based in Sweden.
  • There's a solution to this already - the Platform for Internet Content Selection. No one uses the PICS label though. In fact, it was an easy to spot SEO signature back circa 2003.
  • If this happens - Microsoft will be pleased and Google has a problem. Can you imagine trying to provide a good search experience when websites may or may not be available tending on which user is logged into the PC and which settings are active? Advantage Microsoft; they'll be in a better place to integrate Live Search in with Windows (Windows 7, probably) so that this information is detected.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Was the Michael Arrington, Loic Le Meur and Le Web row staged?

Mike ArringtonImage by Thomas Hawk via FlickrHere's the recap if you missed the row:
  1. Arrington comes back from the Le Web conference and says Europeans are lazy. This is why Silicon Valley is better.
  2. Loic Le Meur notes that he had many complaints about Arrington's attitude on stage before the controversial blog post. He asks if he should be invited back.
  3. Loic Le Meur chats to Robert Scoble on video, talks up TechCrunch and the importance of controversy for Le Web.
  4. Loic Le Meur blogs to suggest a filter in Twitter search that lets you order or omit by follower number would be useful and calls it an authority search.
  5. Bloggers, including Scoble, hate the idea and bile blog about it - however, over at TechCrunch, Arrington rides in like a knight in shiny armour to defend Loic.

Now, both Arrington and Le Meur are men who'll think what they say and say what they think. It is very possible that Arrington did just feel the need to agree with Loic here and say so. Heck; I agree with Loic - the filter would be handy.

I have to say that I found the Scoble interview odd though and twittered about it as I watched it. Waking up to read the two of them defending a corner together is curious in timing.

In some ways I would like to think that this has been a clever manipulation. I would be impressed. I like displays of such cleverness. Arrington's call on Scoble's FriendFeed addiction is, I feel, a far less subtle (and less clever) example of the same technique.

However, I'd much rather not have to sort noise (even planned noise) from my signals over at TechCrunch and if I could wave a magic wand I'd do so to ensure TechCrunch remained a news and savvy editor opinion site.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Red Ring of Death and Firefox

My neighbours may be happy but I'm not. I hadn't bashed out more than a practise session or two on Rock Band 2 when my Xbox 360 fizzed out. I had the dreaded Red Ring of Death (RRoD).

After a little while of poking around online I found the UK support section of Microsoft's website and completed the online instructions. The RRoD is a known issue and Microsoft has (kindly) given most of the world a three year extended warrenty to fix the issue.

I filled in the forms needed to coordinate with myself, Microsoft and UPS. One catch; I was using FireFox. See if you can make out the shipping address from this screen shot.



The good news is that the follow up email message from Microsoft explains everything. Now all I need to do is find a suitable box and arrange for UPS.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Apple owns Christmas (searches)

Apple dominates today's hot trends and searches at Google this Christmas Day. All those iPod and iPhone presents combined with all those iTune vouchers ensure a rush to the site.

Here's a squeezed up view of the 100 hot searches (click to larger) and the coloured in areas - 16 in total - are Apple brand terms or URLs.

Elsewhere in today's chart (which will continue to update every hour) we also see searches for [giant killer snakes] and those more expected such as [stores open on christmas day] and [walmart christmas hours].

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Intense Debate integrates with Joomla

IntenseDebate-logoImage by RDENit via FlickrIntenseDebate has announced brand new support for the ever popular Joomla.

This is a very good move for Intense Debate as Joomla's popularity is impressive.

Interestingly, this development wasn't an Intense Debate initiative as such - the plugin comes from Rocketwerx. From the user's point of view it doesn't really matter who developed the plugin as we're all pretty much used to third party WordPress plugins (although support is always better when the parent company is responsible).

This is the second bit of news from Intense Debate in as many days. Just yesterday they released v2.0.17 for WordPress. While I'm here I should probably point out that I may have been too harsh on Disqus as, after a bit of poking, the Intense Debate competitor also provides ways to start hacking the CSS presentation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Intense Debate v2.0.17 here and much still to do

Intense Debate are pushing out v2.0.17 of their WordPress plugin today. Here’s the quick summary:
  1. Improved registration
  2. Fixed WordPress 2.7 display bugs
  3. Better syncing between ID and WordPress
  4. Improved XHTML validation

I like Intense Debate for the same reasons as I like Disqus (which I use on this blog). Intense Debate, I think, allows for more customisation. I tried to get Disqus on a ‘hobby project’ blog but it was too wide for the WordPress theme I was using – so was Intense Debate. ID invites me to play around with the CSS and so I was able to fix it.

What bothers me the most about Intense Debate and which this update kinda suggests it will fix is the syncing of comments between it and WordPress.

These two screen grabs show how the WordPress dashboard is clearly out of sync with a post. One post has more comments than the dashboard alone is aware of.





It’s not really the dashboard that bothers me. I’d like to have a recent comments widget and the ones that ID provide are naff. So here’s my wishlist:
  1. Even better syncing between ID and WordPress
  2. Wavatar, MyBlogLog, MonsterID, etc, support
  3. Better mobile/iphone admin access
I predict we’re going to see a lot of Disqus and Intense Debate in the blog chat in 2009.

Oh; I must not forget the disclaimer. Despite a healthy PHP programming background I’m new to WordPress. My hobby project WordPress blog is my first WP test and is about a month old. There may be a cunning way to use the cool recent post widgets and Intense Debate together that I’ve missed.

UK search agencies on Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseThere aren't as many UK search agencies on Twitter than I expected. Here's the list.
What's a "search agency" these days anyway? For today's post I imagined any agency that was likely to attend either SMX or SES would count as a search agency.

List too short, did I miss someone off? Let me know!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Zemanta adds more links

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseZemanta has had a good year. You'll notice more and more blogs using their free widget. I use it heavily for picture recommendations (not so much on this blog but elsewhere). I think it's also worth pointing out just how good their customer care team is - especially for a free product!

Their latest offering does two things;

More links!

Traditionally Zemanta has taken link recommendations from a small bank of databases (like wikipedia). They've added a large dose of "wildcard" URLs with the latest update; 6,000 new URLs that have been popular links.

Clickthroughs!

Zemanta have also started to track clickthrough rates. This means two things; it means the links inserted by Zemanta may loose some of their SEO value (they're going through the redirect domain r.zemanta.com) but secondly there's added value in having a popular title as Zemanta may notice how popular your post was.

The advantage in Zemanta seeing that you're a popular post? We can theorise that this is connected to the first announcement that they've added 6,000 popular URLs to their recommendation engine. Be popular and Zemanta could recommend you.

Combine this with the API they released a few weeks ago and Zemanta is shaping up nicely. Any concerns? Not sure how they're going to make money. Selling the service to professional bloggers doesn't seem like a large revenue model to me... I suspect ad links are more likely.


Google's interest in Network Neutrality could cost you money

Network Neutrality GroupImage by eschipul via FlickrGoogle's interest in Network Neutrality may also save you money. Here's the one line summary; Network Neutrality may affect how quickly your site loads and your PPC costs can increase if your site loads slowly.

Some telecom companies would like to be able to prioritise some internet traffic over other network traffic.

For example, an ISP may decide that they may wish to put their business users ahead of their home users when it comes to the second-by-second queue of internet requests. Another ISP may wish to let any request for a .com hosted in the UK to go ahead of any request for a .biz address hosted in Russia should the two bottleneck at any time. Yet another ISP may decide to prioritise any requests to HTTPS connections.

There is a business model here. ISPs could then offer a tiered service where you could pay to ensure traffic too your website was always a priority and that it would always be delivered via the fast lanes of the ISPs network.

Those who oppose this, Google included, argue that Network Neutrality is needed. They say this is a solution in search of a problem. The argument is that ISPs should not be given this power. Google has created an entire section in their help centre to defend Net Neutrality. Google argues that users should be in control of the content they view and the applications they use.

Google's position on Network Neutrality, however, became slightly clouded when it announced plans for its OpenEdge project. OpenEdge lets Google co-locate server functionality with ISPs in order to ensure it gets good service, fast and prioritised connections.

The issue of speed becomes an issue of cost when we look at Google's Quality Score algorithm. Quality Score is one of the thorns currently challenging PPC campaigns that are too reliant to automated bidding strategy; increasingly algorithmic evaluation of ads and landing pages (think SEO for PPC) are as important as max bids, dayparting and the risk management of portfolios.

Google evaluates the speed of your landing pages. If your PPC ads point to a landing page that Google feels takes too long to load – your Quality Score goes down and your cost per click is likely to increase.

If the battle to maintain Network Neutrality is lost then large companies are in a better position than SMEs to secure priority speeds on the new tiered internet. Smaller companies will then be more likely to have slower landing pages and more likely to face Quality Score issues in their Paid Search campaign. Google's interest in Network Neutrality could cost you money

Wisdom needed while playing with Google Custom Maps

Google's Chicago office is easy to find. The address is at the bottom of every email sent out by Feedburner (who offer email subscriptions as well as RSS now).

In one custom map collection a Google user called Sarah has made only two maps; one of Google's office and the other showing her home. Many people would assume they've just found the home address of a Googler.

How do you logout of SocialBrowse?

I rather like the SocialBrowse plugin for FireFox.


The plugin allows you to share pages and summaries with friends on your network or simply to comment on news or other people's discoveries. It is a social system and if you discover the 'good stuff' then you'll get awarded with points that help your profile stand out and therefore attract more followers.

Followers see your recommendations pop up in the bottom right corner of their screen while they're browsing. In many ways it reminds me of Twitterfox or Twhirl.

There's a catch though - how do you log out? Once you've logged in there is no log out option. Hmm. I put the question to their support team and got a speedy response. Here it is;

... there is a way to logout, it's just not convenient. If you go to your Firefox profile, there is a file called SBCredentials. Just delete that and then restart Firefox and Socialbrowse will ask you to log in again.

If you don't know where to find this file, here are the instructions:

In Windows go to: C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\.default where is your computer's account and is some random string in front of default.

In Mac, go to: ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/.default/

Did it work? I ended up uninstalling and nuking anything that had any suggestion of SocialBrowse details in my profile. That worked. I've put the plugin back in place though and you can find my profile here.

The Googlefeinting game

Googlefeinting is a Google word game the goal of which is to find a single word for which Google's number #1 result is not that word. If Google suggests 'Did you mean' then the word is disqualified.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Friendface

Through the power of Virgin Media's amazing TV on Demand I caught up with the latest episode of The IT Crowd. It was all about the dangers of social networking and bringing back those relationships which should be left for dead.

If you follow the IT Crowd link then you can get to the official Channel 4 video of the Friendface snippet. For now, however, Youtube & Channel 4 seem to be allowing this copied clip to air.



There's even a Friendface website to go with the show. Ignore the friendface.info links that appear all over the Youtube embed; they're the work of the person behind the unofficial clip.

If you take a peak at the website's source code you'll see what their target keywords might be too...

A creative commons model of social media strategy

David Cushman and Tom Nixon are doing their best to lure in some of social media's bright sparks to help produce a creative commons shared model that illustrates the social strategy flow.

I think this is a project that will a) need some help, b) be bloody useful when it works. It can be hard enough explaining digital to people who still think of TV broadcast and eyeballs on ads.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top ten stupid questions from 2008

Well DuhImage by unclebumpy via FlickrI travel to a lot of shows and events. Oddly, I do a lot of speaking (it's odd as I can barely string two sentences together) and this includes training events run by various marketing assocations, business groups, local commerce entities, etc.

I made a point of scribbling down some of the questions I've been asked. I think you'll enjoy them too.

10) "Can we run Wordpress on our BlogSpot account?" - IT Manager of a large retailer.

9) "Can Windows XP go at broadband speed?" - Marcomms Manager at a SME.

8) "Does Google compete with Microsoft?" - Marketing Director at medium sized publisher

7) "If someone abandons the shopping cart how do you find it again?" - Marketing Manager at a SME.

6) "If we change our background colour to white will the page load more slowly?" - Marketing Executive at a travel firm.

5) "Would many affiliates be prepared to do cost-per-click on our company name?" - Content Manager at a high street retailer.

4) "Do blogs link to other websites?" - Marcomms Executive at a bank.

3) "What do you mean; people are hitting our website?" - Marketing Manager at legal firm.

2) "Do many people shop online now?" - Marketing Director of a SME.

1) "What are webmasters and why would they look at our code?" - a 'Head of Internet" at a medium sized B2B.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When JavaScript murders Chrome


Chrome is just out of beta but its still an incipient browser. When Andy Beal asked on Twitter if anyone was having challenges with Chrome and Marketing Pilgrim I popped over to take a look. This rather cute death message welcomed me - twice.

Woolies getting annoyed at dumb people

I suppose there are some small advantages in being a manager of a store that's closing down.

The Woolies situation is nothing to make light of but I'm certain whoever wrote this sign at the local Leith Edinburgh shop posted it with some satisfaction.

Reporting in circles

The economic climate is certainly keeping the ad industry buzzing with concern and discussion. One of the problems when people start to talk and just can't stop talking is that we start to talk in circles.

Within the space of minutes today's NMA has predicted that spend will go up and that spend will go down.

In the positive story its the agencies saying that they're predicting more spend; Search, of course, looks to be fairly robust and in this NMA story we'll see an increase in display. Its Platform-A (AOL) and Microsoft Media Network who are set to do well.

In the negative story it is the ad networks who say they'll have to fight to live. Adrevenue went into administration recently and the opening quote is from the ex-CEO;

The business entered administration last week. I'm working with administrators to ensure creditors get the funds owed.

Microsoft Media Network - predicted in the first article to do well - has to deny that they're cutting rates just to cope.

There have been a couple of incidents where we've offered a really low rate of under £1. It was a specific kind of buy and a one-off. It's not our standard rate.

So, what do you think? Will spend go up in 2009? Will spend go up in 2009 and will ad networks still have to fight for survival?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Easy to decode chameleon result

I think this screen grab illustrates pretty clearly how and why Google's chameleon results makes some of the suggestions it does.

Who knew so many people would struggle with the definition of aspiration?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sports Personality of Year Award: Chris Hoy - The Sun beats The Daily Mail by 3 minutes

It's the Sports Personality of Year Award here in the UK. This is an award that has had a lot of build up and there is a tremendous amount of interest in it due to Britain's success in the Olympics this year.

This is a perfect example of a timetabled event which traditional news and blogs could have been waiting to leap at. The search traffic for the result and the winner will be huge. I heard the results first via Twitter from the Guardian writer @jemimakiss. Chris Hoy won.

So, who got their first?

The Sun got into Google News first... by three minutes. This may be because The Sun got the news live first, because Google News crawls The Sun more quickly or more often or a spot of luck on the timing of the Google News crawl.

Let's look at the quality of the articles though; here's The Sun and here's the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail's article is longer. Its likely to catch more keywords.

What's more important is that Google News has picked up a photograph from the Daily Mail. Unfortunately it's not a photograph of Chris Hoy. Google News, however, doesn't really know that and until it finds another picture to use we'll see tonight's news results cluster around this photograph. This is the sort of news item that will likely homepage on Google News UK and whereas there will be hundreds of news stories there will only be a few pictures. The Daily Mail will do well in the long run.

By the way; if you do want to see a picture of Chris Hoy then here he is with some people from bigmouthmedia a day before a mighty charity bike and hike. This is the very picture I was looking for when Flickr started to throw up weird search shoutout effects (which have not reoccurred)

ITN whoops their RSS

Independent Television News - who supply many portals around the web with UK news - have lost their RSS feed.


The RSS button on their homepage points to http://itn.co.uk/newsindex.rss. So does the link tag.


The actual page is missing. At least it issues a hard 404 response.

I discovered this while looking to subscribe to their feed. That's a clear indication of the sort of problem ITN might encounter due to this missing page. The good news is that they're still in Google News. Pick up might be slower than it would be if the RSS feed was in place but Google News is still crawling the site or ITN still have their News Sitemap XML in place.

Weird Flickr search shoutout



Anyone else getting this weird shoutout effect after a Flickr search? It looks like a cross between a feature and a de-bugging comment.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Aaages ago

Oh my gosh. It's been over two years since the bigmouthmedia movie. I think my favourite part is still the outtakes - or the gobby bits!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Google Desktop alerts missing the real content

I'm a fan of Google Desktop's alert. This isn't a widely used feature but I love the way the primitive discovery engine flashes up alerts of news that might interest me.

The alert has been wrestling with sorting the navigation from the content in the news posts though - Google News does not have this problem but Google Blogsearch, which has just moved to full feed, does.


The screen grab here shows an alert from Sky News saying; "Use the drop down menu below to filter stories and video the way you want-".

Sure; this is one to add to Sky New's SEO list but it doesn't reflect well on Google Desktop either. It shouldn't need the guiding hand of an SEO.

Do you Google Desktop?

Some people dislike it as it does use some CPU time to index your machine.

My main problem with it is that it's a pain to install; you need administrator privileges and then it will only run on the Windows profile which installed it. That's more effort than most corporate IT teams are willing to go through. Google learnt their lesson with Chrome though. I upgraded Chrome with only user permissions today. Sneeze near a Google product and you'll install Chrome.

Monday, December 08, 2008

FriendFeed has more to do before it is 'international'

I find myself checking FriendFeed less and less these days. Why? I use Twhirl for Twitter and for Friendfeed and the extra window that produces is a real pain. I think Friendfeed would benefit from a tabbed Twhirl!

I also have more language issues with FriendFeed. It took a Mashable post to point out that FriendFeed has expanded into more languages today. I think FriendFeed needs to do more than just translate the interface in order to sell itself as international though.

What I want from FriendFeed is a way to filter by language. The screen grab below shows some Twitter chat from Germany. Some of it is in English and some in German. I'm rubbish at languages so struggle (0.00% success rate) with German. FriendFeed would be so much more useful for me if it let me keep the English and filter the German language stuff.


While we're here... I think an auto-update of Twitter followers to FriendFeed would be handy!

Esymbian.info still dead

One of my favourite little Firefox add-ons updated for me this morning; ShowIP. I was hoping the author would have substituted the Esymbian.info link which the add-on used to use to show the likely geo-location of the site (and you).

Sadly not.

I'm aware of a few other geo-IP checking websites but, meh, they seem slow, ad laden or just naff. Anyone with a recommendation?

CJK results in Google.com

It's pretty rare these days to find Google.com returning CJK language sites in the number #1 position for English language searches. Here's one - for [Pure Spirit]. The site in question is also in Flash.

Friday, December 05, 2008

SEO 101 Video

BT Tradespace asked their SEO Account Manager to appear in an SEO 101 video for the benefit of their own clients.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Odd Google bugs

I thought this was rather nice.

Preview
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!


An Xoogler found this odd GUI bug dating back to 2004 while rooting around her inbox.