Friday, March 30, 2012

Google's TV ad: Google+ Tom

On YouTube Google Channel UK have just uploaded a video called "Google+: Tom".

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict it's the TV ad for Google+ that we know is coming. The ad itself is supposed air during "Britain's Got Talent" and was put together by Adam & Eve.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How I coped with a Twitter plugin too close to malware

On Friday the 16th of March I was sent a few tweets from friends who found that Google's Chrome browser warned them against visiting blog.arhg.net. It was worried about malware.

I couldn't recreate the warning. I couldn't find any sign of malware or of any hacking. A few hours later everyone had confirmed that the warning had been dropped.

On Monday the 19th - the start of a week of business travel for me - the warning came back. For everyone. Google's search results warned people about malware and blocked clicks to the site. The timing wasn't great.

By Tuesday the 20th I found some time to get online again and investigate. Google Webmaster Console was so useful. Thanks Google. The console put a warning about malware on the screen for me to notice and sent me an email alert. The same console listed the pages it was worried about and actually highlighted the worrying code.

The problem was the Publitweet Twitter plugin once covered by TechCrunch. Google was worried about the plugin's home domain and since it had a JavaScript call back to the domain Google was worried that any site that used it might also be a malware risk. The good news was that no malware had actually been detected on my blog.

It took a few seconds to fix the problem. I just deleted the suspect code.

Then I hit the "Request Review" button provided by Google alongside the malware warning.

In hindsight, that may have been a mistake. I waited.

I put together a Google+ post to warn other webmasters about Publitweet and in I wondered how long the re-scan would take.

Over the next couple of days Google's Webmaster Console warned me that traffic to key pages of the site had dropped suspiciously. It was obvious why.

Google stopped crawling the site. Right up until I had requested the review Google had been checking the site every day. The list of warnings about suspect URLs had previously had a few entries - but it stopped with just two URLs Google had looked at on the 20th.


I tried to encourage Google back to the site by doing a manual "Fetch as Googlebot" request on the URLs. The fetch worked. The URLs were re-submitted back to the index. Nothing happened on the Malware warning front.

Yesterday, after about my 100th tweet to say my site had malware, I started a Google+ thread limited to just a few people - helpful Google engineers, malware experts, etc - and shared the problem. Within a few minutes I got my first reply - from someone at Google who usually goes out of their way to help. I won't name drop - but thanks.

After a few more comments from other helpful souls the consensus was the same. I might have hit that "request review" button too quickly. There was concern that the server might have still held on to a cached copy of the risky code. I was hoping this wouldn't be the case since the blog is part of blogger.com. Google owns that. Surely they can cope with their own cache?

One engineer suggested that malware review requests can be turned around in a day; but 2 to 3 days is about right. I resolved to re-request the review and sit tight for at least 3 days.

That's a type of conversation I couldn't have had on Twitter.

By the end of the day, less than a handful of hours later, Chrome stopped warning against visiting the site and an hour after that the Google SERPs block was lifted.

The takeaways:
  • There's always a risk in adding a plugin
  • Always sign up to Google's Webmaster Console
  • Beware caches - perhaps wait a while before asking for a malware review
  • Malware reviews shouldn't take much more than four days

Monday, March 26, 2012

Long-form journalist site Matter crowd sources $140,000

Matter promises to do long-form, thoughtful, journalism on the web. In a pitch on Kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/readmatter/matter the team have raised more than $140,000 - beating their $50,000 goal.

The pitch video features Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing, Alex Ohanian, co-founder of reddit, Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter and Evan Doll, co-founder of Flipboard. In the video they go up against some of the more annoying blog tricks (which many in the blogging side of the business short hand as 'seo') and make a case for why we should fund, expensive, investigative journalism for tech.



I'm keen to see Matter succeed.

I also think it sets an interesting precedent. I wonder if we'll see blogs turning to Kickstarter for funding. Can you imagine what Mashable might raise if they asked their audience to seed fun a new hardware section?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Curating the curators

Commerical curation platform Percolate.com has a video that's chocking up the views and is worth watching. One of the reasons the video is doing well is that it features a host of tastemakers who, of course, are inclined to tell their followers to watch the video. The other reason it's doing well is that the video is worth watching.



Blogging about curation seems a little short of the mark, though. To do something different-yet-the-same I turned to a different curation platform, Storify, dusted an account off and fired it up. The Storify below is a sample of what the curators featured in the video have been curating.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More social extentions showing in Google UK SERPs

Google.co.uk does not yet have Search+.

However, some Search+ like effects have started to appear in the SERPs today and they follow on from the "latest posts" rollout that started yesterday.

I don't have MoneySuperMarket in my Circles and yet, on Google.co.uk, when I search for [moneysupermarket] I trigger their latest posts to appear in the old ad space on the right.


Compare that to the same search on Google.com. Spot the difference? I have the option to add MoneySuperMarket to my Circles in .com. I don't have that in the .co.uk because Search+ hasn't integrated Google+ with Search over here yet. I don't have the personalised results suggestions at the very top of the page either.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Use social media to stop competitors brand bidding

Brand bidding is always a controversial subject. I certainly know of companies who would happily explore solutions to make it go away.

Google+ with the integration into Search+ may now be such a solution.

Google is testing adding "latest posts" into the right-hand side of the search results. This does not get rid of all the PPC because ads can appear at the very top or the very bottom. It's just harder work to qualify for the top position and not as an effective brand bid to be in the bottom.

The screen grab below shows the effect in place for my name. I'm no brand. I've a fairly small social media footprint - so if my name can trigger this response then this level of SERP dominance is certainly within reach for most brands. If, that is, Google decides to roll it out and if we ever see Search+ outside of America.

I hope we do. I like Search+.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Me versus my blog

Infographic search engine and hosting platform, Visual.ly has launched beta access to their new create service. It's free. It lets you create infographics for free.

Sure, there are some restrictions - you have to pick from templates and in this early beta phase there are few to pick from. Data, however, is automatically mined from public sources like Twitter.

This is great news for someone like me who often wants to explore areas and have engaging content - but I've no artistic ability whatsoever.

What you get from the service depends on how clever you are in picking interesting ideas to data mine and your strategy for handling the infographic. The cost, however, is free.

I predict the current cost of infographics to decline. Just as well.

As an illustration I've asked Visually to make one of its head-to-head infographics. In the example below it's comparing me to one of my more popular blogs.


It's a shame that blogger.com isn't very good at displaying infographics.

I think what this represents is a downwards pressure on the price of creative. Equally, it's also putting pressure on strategy to perform - it's strategy that extracts the value from the creative.