Friday, July 31, 2009

Question of the Day: Hammertime in Google

Sometime there are truly hard questions. I fear this is one. A user – known as Hammertime – has posed a particular challenge to Google’s AdWords team. In his own words:

How does a new musician figure out his music is any good before spending money to market


Ah yes. That age old problem. Do I suck or not?

Hammertime then moves swiftly on to the meat of his help request.

I write all my own music and want everyone to hear it and give feed back on how to make it better but don’t want to pay if it isn’t getting me anywhere to help me be better at what I do!!!!


Except, I’m not really giving the post all the credit it is due. The actual post was entirely it capital letters.


People often complain that Google doesn’t respond to every post in the AdWords help centre.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weblogs T&Cs ban Google, Digg, Tweetmeme, et al

A fair few of my RSS feeds are ad hoc mashups. I’ve not subscribed directly to anyone source but I’ll have subscribed to a Google Blog Search or Google News search RSS. I may be using Yahoo Pipes to mash something up for me. In many cases I’m following a news aggregator output and increasingly I’m subscribed to friends, co-workers and industry minds’ public streams.

For example, I’ve been subscribed to the found and shared discoveries of Tim Aldiss for months. Now Google’s ramped up the social media aspect of Google Reader he becomes a contact/person I follow.

Weblogs’ Terms and Conditions doesn’t cater for this sort of RSS consumption. It tries to force you to subscribe directly to their RSS feed. You can read their feed terms here.

The paragraph in question is;

The RSS Service may be used only with those platforms and newsreaders from which a functional link is made available that, when accessed, takes the viewer directly to the display of the full article on one of our Web sites. You must use the RSS feeds as provided by us.

The first line impacts news aggregators that may harvest content from sites like Engadget and then direct readers to their summary. These aggregators share their discoveries via RSS too.

It’s the second line that affects me. If someone I’m following via Google Reader shares a Weblogs item then I access that item via RSS but not by Weblogs’ RSS.

I didn’t do this willingly. It happened through the natural RSS surfacing mechanisms of RSS readers. I really doubt anyone at Weblogs would object to this. They want their items to be shared and liked and passed around. In the case of Google Reader and contacts I’m still reading the Weblogs original and if I click anywhere I’ll go straight to them.

I remember working with online newspapers in the mid 2000s who still had T&Cs which wanted people to get written permission before linking to any article. As part of the newspapers SEO efforts we got those T&Cs changed. The newspapers may be revisiting this policy but I wonder if Weblogs actually means to be pushing in this direction. What do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Google slaps down Tory MP David Davis

David DavisImage by Captain Snap's Photos via Flickr

The Conservative David Davis seems like someone to know. He’s clearly a mover and shaker. He’s taken on Google and this is going to be interesting. Will the Tories be embarrassed publicly by the search giant?

Google feels the need to set the record straight with Davis’ comments on Google’s privacy policies.

This won’t surprise any of us in search. We know just how hard Google tries to do the right thing with privacy but just how thorny privacy issues liberally pepper the technological landscape.

Google spend a lot of effort trying to promote their pro-privacy options. They spend even more time trying to be the consumer’s best friend. Unfortunately for David Davis Google are using their European Public Policy Blog to respond to him, this blog seems to have become something of an attack channel for Google and the search engine seems to have decided Joe Public consumer isn’t likely to read it.

How well did the Tory MP do with the facts? According to Google;
Responding to speculation in the Times several weeks ago that the Conservative party was in favour of giving patients the ability to transfer their medical records to private companies, Mr Davis decided to launch an extraordinary attack on Google, riddled with misleading statements. Of course, Mr Davis didn't ask us first for our comments or to check his facts before going to press.

The whole post is worth a read. Google pick up the following points;
  • That Google is hostile to privacy.
  • That Google claims European privacy doesn’t apply to it.
  • That Google entered into an “amoral deal” with China
  • That Google makes money from exploiting its customers’ private data

What’s your point of view?

10 things retweet.com could do to beat tweetmeme.com

retweetImage by smith via Flickr

It looks like we’re about to see the launch of retweet.com. MG Siegler at TechCrunch has a write up and we can see the “winning” design for the site over at 99designs too.

While writing this post I also stumbled across a way to access retweet.com today. I blogged that straight away.
  1. Let people customise the colours of the buttons (always a branding challenge for Tweetmeme but retweet has the security of their domain name)
  2. Easier integration with RSS feeds (especially for blogger.com and similar hosted services)
  3. Provide a ‘related posts’ plugin powered by retweet.com data.
  4. Disallow services like twitterfeed from their RSS feeds (to prevent the automatic echo chamber)
  5. Provide a feedflare
  6. Provide email alerts when topics or keywords of choice reach different thresholds of interest
  7. Let users see trending tweets from just their friends or defined lists of Twitter accounts
  8. Introduce an additional and alternative ‘authority’ view based on trust and credibility as well as retweet volume.
  9. Let users filter out (or in) tweets marked by “ad”, “sponsored” or equivalent negative descriptors.
  10. Improve RT.nu
Some of these ten are hard to but others look like quick wins. Perhaps Retweet.com’s biggest challenge may be the legacy Retweet.com inherits from Hummingbird via its parent company Mesiab Labs. There’s a good deal of trust in play when you add a third party widget to your site. Mesiab will have to earn it.

Update: I wrote that trust might be retweet.com's biggest challenge. Turns out that I (and many others) were right. The company was caught copying code straight from Tweetmeme. It seems likely that many bloggers would not want to be involved in that. The hill for retweet.com just got significantly steeper.

Update 2: Retweet.com has blogged their side of the Tweetmeme/retweet.com code drama. It's worth a read if you want to follow both sides of this development.

Sneaky access to retweet.com before launch

TechCrunch brought me news of the pending launch of retweet.com.

I'm no cracker but just by being nosy and looking at the source code and then trying the folder their holding page logo was being called from I've stumbled into a semi-functional retweet.com beta version.

You can do the same or simply check out http://174.129.2.195/meme/. It seems likely that they'll block this folder, I don't think it's supposed to be public, so be quick.



Saturday, July 25, 2009

The philippine nursing board exam 2009 and Google hot trends

I'm always curious about what makes it into Google's Hot Trends and why. Very often it's TV and news. TV quizzes, in particular, encourages thousands of people across America to search for the same thing at the same time. News events, of course, also have people searching en mass - we've seen just how significant the Tour de France has been for search traffic this year. Almost each stage has made it into the top hundred as people checked to see who won.

Right now (although we're past the peak) we have the search [philippine nursing board exam 2009] trending.

I could quite easily believe that there are enough internet users in the Philippines to push onto the hot trends. After all we regularly see UK events make the trends at Twitter - such as the Dean Street /Soho Fire.

Here's the catch though. Google's hot trends is supposed to be USA only. Are there really that many Philippine nurses in America right now who sat the exams in the Philippines and are all logging in to check the results today? I doubt this search was inspired by a US quiz show either.

Most likely is that these are actual students in the Philippines who are searching for the nursing board exam results. Google's just mis-classifying them as American traffic. That's something to think about the next time you restrict your PPC campaign to USA only.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Evony - now with more sex

The latest Evony ads look as if they’ve come straight out of the midnight dating sex ads. We’ve a buxom girl with come-hither eyes. Sure, she’s a fantasy girl but nothing about her suggests medieval fantasy in the Tolkien style as the other ads have.



This is actually an ad for the Evony strategy game of resource management and waiting. If you peer closely into the top left corner (away from the direction the fantasy boobies are pointing) you’ll be just about able to make the logo out.

The ad does not resemble game play.

And the call to action? Play – unnoticeable now. For the last few weeks Evony has been pushing their ability to hide the game quickly should you be playing it at school or college when you’re not supposed to be.

I've written about Civony/Evony many times before and I’m still fascinated by the aggressive tactics of the company. It’s their fault for pressing both my digital marketing button and my gamer button.

We can see that Evony took a bit of a fall in June but it’s picked up again in July (although there’s the suggestion of a plateau beginning to form).



We can also see that Singapore is still at the top of the player charts but that Europe. Russia, India and even parts of Africa are beginning to succumb. The entirely of South America now lights up on the search volume index and that was entirely blank at our last check.


Hat tip to theweirdone for the ad spot.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Google Suggests: Chinese people eat babies


Google suggests strange things.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tweet with Eliza Dusku via Dollhouse ads. Shame about the Oauth.

This a rather funky interactive advert from Fox for Joss “God” Wheedon’s Dollhouse series. It invokes video, Twitter and images of Eliza Dusku.

BR, polite as they are, say the ad is running on “male-targeted” and sci-fi sites.

I think the ad’s a great idea. I wouldn’t have gone searching for Eliza on Twitter as I wouldn’t have expected her to be there. What happens here is that the ad will appear on a site I’m reading (that’ll be the sci-fi site) and effectively that brings Eliza to me. It’s all about attention economics.

In the ad itself you can sign into Twitter and send Eliza some tweets. There’s a moderation process (presumably to strip out costume requests) and then the chance of a reply or even your tweet appearing on the ad itself.



I’d love to use it. I’m a little cautious about plugging my user details into the ad though. It doesn’t use Twitter’s Oauth.

One wrong click and you’ll end up on Amazon.com’s Dollhouse Season One page too. That’s a bit tough if you’re in the UK or elsewhere as you’ll have to flick sites and wait until September the 7th. Hopefully Fox and co will get the geo-targeting sorted out.

Will they simply show the ad to US visitors? Likely. That does mean they won’t be able to harness Dollhouse’s UK fan base and build any sort of buzz for the DVD/Blu-Ray release over here. Sadly, this is what you get with evil regions and staggered releases.

If you want a play with the ad (or an oogle at the vids) then EyeWonder (one of the ad authoring companies involved) have an online demo that works.

Let’s see more of this sort of thing; except with Oauth and with a global concept.

Google paying companies to send you junk mail

Long ago the direct marketing people lost a crucial battle with the public. Direct marketing – where you send people marketing messages to their house – is known by most people as junk mail.

It’s an old fashioned style of marketing but people still do it. My local takeaways have had great success with me by sending me discounts. Credit card companies earn my hatred by sending me annoying junk mail. You can see how this was always going to be a tough PR battle for the DM people but why companies still engage in it.




Google’s got into the act. They’re now giving you money to spend on AdWords if you start to send junk mail.

As it happens this may be brilliant news for SMEs. It’s certainly something I’d encourage local businesses to look at despite the poor reputation that direct marketing has with some people.

Google’s teamed up with the Royal Mail. You get £30 of free advertising from Google and %10 off every order of the Royal Mail’s offline marketing program called “Mailshots in Minutes”.

Mailshots in Minutes lets businesses send postcards (or A4 letters) to target demographics - ie, lists of addresses bought from the Royal Mail.

What do you think? Clever idea from Google and the Royal Mail or not? Do you think Search or Social agencies may also face a PR battle with the public in order to avoid their techniques being associated with 'junk'?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Are Seesmic about to drop the ball?

[ontheground for seesmic] the-seesmic-beastieb...Image by philcampbell via Flickr

Like many of the things I blog about here to whinge about – I’m actually a big fan of Seesmic.

Firstly I used Twhirl religiously for my desktop Twitter app and it took the launch of Seesmic Desktop to lure me a way.

I lean heavily on Seesmic Desktop. I maintain 6 Twitter accounts; mine, some from bigmouthmedia and some others (one for a game, etc). By a mile Seesmic Desktop is the best client for multiple accounts.

They offer a single column that lets me view all the Tweets any of my accounts have access to. I can filter that column to see either the DMs to any of those accounts or any of the replies to those accounts. Amazingly Tweetdeck can’t do this. I have to have individual columns for individual accounts.

It all went wrong with the upgrade to Seesmic Desktop 0.4. Within minutes my laptop was sluggish. The Seesmic client simply took an age to respond.

A glance at the Task Manager showed Seesmic Desktop up at over 50% CPU usage.

I moaned about this to @seesmic and was invited to email Yama. That’s great. It shows they’ve been listening but I’ve not had a response. I’m not sure they’ve acknowledged there’s an issue.

I was sitting and waiting. I’ve been forced to use Tweetdeck which I’m slowly getting to grips with. Tweetdeck means lots of horizontal scrolling and a greater risk of Tweeting from the wrong account that any of the clients I’m familiar with.

What’s triggered this post is the insight that Seesmic have been alerted to a possible security issue with Twhirl and that they’re choosing to ignore the fix. Twitpwn has the details.

I think the last paragraph says it all;

Instead of applying a one character fix to this vulnerability (by simply adding an "s" to the HTTP request), Seesmic have decided to ignore my continuous requests to fix this vulnerability.

I like Seesmic. They’re funded. They’ve money for staff but I suspect they’re in the growing pains stage and are struggling to keep up with demand, promises to investors and current users. I don’t pay them a penny but I’m still up in arms because they’ve “upgraded” software so that I can’t use it. This is a problem their business model but they’re not alone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Google Reader's new "like" social model is fundamentally flawed

I'm already a big fan of Google Reader's new "Like" social model. It's a model that lets you mark those RSS supplied posts you like. It turns the vast amount of reading I do into a social networking oppertunity.

That's why I'm gutted some of the core methodology appears to be fundamentally flawed.

My main gripe is that the "likes" are attributed to the redirect/tracking URL and not the actual URL of the writing itself. Sounds crazy, but it's true.

For example; here's an original Mashable article and its associated likes.



Here's the very same post. There's no likes on it this time. Why not? The RSS feed came in via Yahoo Pipes first. That's the technical reason but if the goal is to show me what's popular then we've failed here.



There's a related situation with the mobile version of Google Reader. I love the mobile Google Reader as it doesn't matter where I am - my reads all always in sync (it's the cloud, no actual syncing needed).

I star or share something via my phone or blackberry the effect is the same as if I'd shared it via my desktop. That's not the case for the 'like' feature. I know it's new and it may be demanding to expect Google to keep their mobile web apps as update to date with their web apps but already I'm hesitant to scroll through my RSS on my blackberry today as I may loose out on the chance of marketing a discovery as a 'like' and therefore loose out on the social networking chance.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tweetmeme struggling against follower spam

I really like Tweetmeme. It works like this - a button on your blog encourages visitors to tweet your posts, it displays how many people do this and that has the effect of encouraging more people to do the same.

While all this tweeting is going on Tweetmeme monitors which are the popular blog posts and once a certain threshold has been reached the @tweetmeme Twitter profile tweets out a general link to the popular post. It's a good way of surfacing interesting posts.

Over the last few hours, though, Tweetmeme seems to have been successfully gamed by annoying follower spam.




Monday, July 13, 2009

BBC’s Psychoville emulates Google’s AdWords

I spent a little bit of the weekend on the BBC’s iPlayer catching up with Pyschoville (but I’m still behind so no spoilers!) in the second episode we catch sight of the side of Mr Jolly’s van. For the background; Mr Jolly is apparently arch rival to the rather sinister Mr Jelly.

So it was Mr Jolly’s site I checked out first – just by typing in the domain.

I couldn’t but help notice the AdWords like ad. Clever. It does look to me that the BBC designers think comparison engines dominate these things as we’ve a spoof ad for clown comparison engine ala "Clowns Compare Prices".


Clicking on Mr Jelly’s ad takes us to the disturbed clown’s site! Both sites do have links to BBC disclaimers, though.


Apnoti to launch world's first real time search engine

Apnoti.com is a shopping search engine with a real time focus. The site is live and established. What separates it from other shopping search engines is that it keeps close track of the price of items and allows you to sign up for price drop alerts.

So if you’re planning on buying a certain Linksys by Cisco Wireless Range Expander you can plug the details into the system and get an alert when Apnoti notices a tracked retailer has dropped the price to a range you can afford.

TheWeirdOne noticed Smart Apnoti crawling her site after she made some tweaks. Pretty quick reactions there from Apnoti.

According to the German company’s holding page not only are they launching on Monday August the 3rd but they’re making the claim to be the world’s first real-time search engine.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Google Reader and a costly mistake

When you sign into Google Reader you'll notice that most of the sign in screen is devoted to a Google picked collection of RSS discoveries. The default one is "cool" and shows popular shares from around the web.

Right now there's an awfully cute panda checking out a rather impressive cake. There's also a rookie learning about AdWords the hard way.



Jezebel, I think, is a popular Gawker blog too. Let's hope this isn't a site targeting match and somehow the test AdWord is being matched the panda photos by content algorithm.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Predicting a super digg: 123456789

Nixie Clock #2 Front viewImage by Sascha Grant via Flickr

This is the second time I've found myself trying to guess a Google logo. A so-called "super digg" is when Google's logo changes to mark and event or date, links through to the search results and you're lucky enough be among the ranking sites.

The last time I (correctly, briefly) predicted a 1234567890 Google logo was to match the unix clock.

This time the prediction is based on the 'British calendar'. Here in Blighty we tend to write dates differently than in the US. We put the shortest of the chronological elements in order and so it is: day / month / year. I was born in 10/5/76. I was born on May the 10th and not the 5th of October.

What does this mean? This means August the 7th, 2009 will look good. That already gives us 7/8/9.

We can extend that by putting 12:34:56 beside it. That's 34 minutes and 56 seconds past 12.

Yup; 12:34:56 7/8/9 or, if you want, 123456789!

Chef Kate tells me that this won't happen again for another four thousand years! (I'll do the maths on that later, promise).

So will Google UK's logo change to mark the second? Maybe. I'll be an optimist and give it 23.45% chance of it happening!

118 800 down, opt-out takes site offline

Here in the UK a new directory inquiries company is about to go live. What's 'special' about 118800.co.uk is that they'll include mobile numbers on their directory.

They've said they'll try not to include mobile numbers associated with children. The rest of us have to opt-out online. I tried to do this last night but couldn't as the site was down. The site's still down.

I would imagine that 118 800 are on the cusp of another round of PR issues. If the website is still like this by tonight I would imagine they'll have to extend the opt-out period at the very least.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Adobe - doing it right

TheWeirdOne has been testing Windows 7 ever since Bing kindly gave us a copy of the RC. It's good to see that sites like Abode.com are already detecting and reacting to Windows 7 users.

Our experience has been good so far. Programs like Spore run without any fuss what-so-ever. I'm not sure how far away I'm from getting a netbook; I might have a Chrome OS vs Windows 7 debate. I don't have a PC right now (just laptops!) but getting Windows 7 makes sense in a way that Vista never did.

I’m worried about Google’s Webmaster product poll

Dare to Be Stupid album coverImage via Wikipedia

Google opened up a Moderator powered public vote for what the Webmaster Central team could do to help webmasters. This is the team who supports the Webmaster Tool section and products like the Webmaster Console.

There are loads of changes that I think Google could make to make the GWC better and a few I think they’d actually do.

I’m just not confident that the crowd will vote for them though. Why not? The crowd doesn’t seem to understand what they’re being asked to vote on.

Here’s some real suggestions to Google on how the Webmaster Console could be made better.

"Create one account, where all adsense revenue can go and be used as part of our adwords budget. Helps us re-use the cash for our own advertising. Good for Google also as there might be fewer payments."

"GOOGLE the greatest search engine ever created! And Yet....I cannot navigate back to google's home page from my gmail or many other pages within the google environment. Every single page should have this link. We don't all have a google tool bar."

"If Google could add a thesaurus and synonyms tool to gmail, that would be easier than having to resource to other product and step outside my email to get the right word."

"books.google.com needs a bookmark function!"

"I have a domain hosted with Google. I want to be able to add my company's logo and contact info as a picture to my email signature. This is something that is available in MS and Yahoo products :("

"make google adsense ads code safe, no one copy the ads code. if something put adsense code to other site . then account is block .. please work on this issue."

My concern is that these people – and more like them – are voting for what they want and yet they clearly don’t understand the question. Are these people voting against improvements to the Webmaster Console and tool set because they want changes made to Gmail or AdSense?

There’s more. It looks like there are suggestions from people who don’t even seem to know how to use the tools. Let’s look at this one:
"Let Webmasters know whether any of their domains is being punished for violating guidelines, but do not tell why to avoid helping spammers"

I’m not the only one concerned. I found this ‘Webmaster Console’ suggestion among the list of ideas from John in Rochester, MN.
"When someone submits an idea for gmail, maps, analytics, adsense, adwords or any other nonsense in the Product Ideas for Webmaster Central everyone should flag it as inappropriate."




Thursday, July 02, 2009

Google Analytics not compatible with IE8?

Internet Explorer 8 BetaImage by Dekuwa via Flickr

I've not bothered to grab IE8 yet (nor Firefox 3.5, for that matter) but this question on Google's AdWords help forum caught my attention.

RolandV writes,

When I try to access my Analytics account through the Analytics tab under "Reporting" in AdWords, I consistently (on various accounts) get "Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage". However, this works fine when I do the same in Chrome.

Is this a bug in AdWords, IE8, both? What do I have to do when I want to use IE8, not Chrome?

RolandV, I suspect, will be writing about the AdWords version of Google Analytics rather than trying to access Google Analytics directly (it's the same thing; just a different colour).

Does anyone else suffer from this issue?