Wednesday, February 21, 2007

HGTV Gets It: They're Launching a New Social Networking Site

From ClickZ, one of the best search engine marketing news sites out there, comes the announcment that HGTV is launching a new social networking site called Rate My Room.

Several months ago, I was a part of a conference call with someone I wont name, but he has a fairly popular show on TV that relates to DIY related home improvment. As a part of the conversation, we had a conversation about his target audience, their behaviors, their habits and more importantly, how he could connect with those users on his site. While his site wasn't bad, it had a few videos, it had a lot of great content and he wanted to take his strategy to the next level. I told him about social networking, creating features on his site to submit content, submit videos, vote on projects, add their expertise and even create a wiki of sorts to be a reference. The call went well, but over and over he expressed doubt about letting his viewers participate on his site. He was completely uncomfortable with giving his users that much control over the content. He eventually decided not to go in that direction.

Now, here comes HGTV, they're launching Rate My Room. One of the brilliant things about this move by HGTV is that they have a ready and willing audience who would love nothing more than to interact with each other, giving advice, comparing projects, rating their rooms and household projects. I think it's brilliant. If HGTV adds some expert or celebrity designer interaction within the communities, that could only bring more people to the network.

I truly believe that social media and networking is just one of the ways the internet will change the ways people live, the ways people interact and the ways that marketers and companies communicate with their audience. I really enjoy the fact that the internet has evolved to such a degree that the power of the individual, combined with the voice of their network can influence an industry like marketing, which has for so long, tried to tell the consumer what to do. Marketers have always said that the customer ruled, but only recently have consumers actually felt the power of "ruling".

Pageview is Giving Way to New Metrics and it's About Time

MarketingVox, one of my favorite marketing sites has an excellent article about page-view becoming obsolete as a major metric for site success.

This is an issue I've been very passionate about. While page-views are important for determining part of the overall site metrics, I personally feel that in the new era of social media, social networking, social sites that combine different technologies like Ajax and Flash, it's becoming less and less relevant and important. Steve Rubel's article about page-view is a brilliant description of how other aspects and other metrics are becoming more important.

One of the aspects of the Web 2.0 mindset is to have users interact with the website. As more and more people spend more time online, companies are finding ways to encourage user interaction. Sometimes this happens on a single page, other times it's browsing. With the Web 2.0 mindset, page-view is less descriptive of the behavior of the users.

In the past, we looked at page views as a way to see where people are going on a website, we can see them migrate from the homepage, to the category page to the product page and finally to the checkout and purchase page. This linear model is becoming less and less relevant in socially based sites. YouTube and MySpace rely on people to bounce from profile to profile, video to video and interact with the elements on the page. This creates less of a linear pathway and more of a meandering pathway.

Steve Rubel describes tracking "events" as a more important way to look at analytics and user behavior on a site. He makes an excellent point that page-views and even unique visitors don't account for multiple monitors, multiple windows or in Firefox (I would assume) multiple tabs. As I write this post, I have 9 tabs open.

He makes an excellent point that I completely agree with:

Time Spent

With the rise of online video and other rich media, marketers also rely on time spent to measure attention. This is a good metric and it even holds as people interact with embedded video and widgets on whatever platform they choose.

Unfortunately, time spent fails to capture the most engaged users who like to peruse RSS feeds. For example, I subscribe to multiple RSS feeds from the Wall Street Journal but I only click through on those that I want to dig deeper. Still I spend up to 10 minutes a day with my Journal feeds and over an hour a day overall within my Google RSS reader. That time is not accounted for - at least by the Journal, but certainly by Google. There's the dilemma

His conclusion is that the more we track events and time spent, the more accurate the data is going to be to determine user behavior, site value and overall marketing efforts.

Right now, the industry still values some of the more traditional methods of determining and interpreting metrics, but I agree with Steve Rubel. There's an analytic shift that corresponds with the new way of internet marketing and Web 2.0 that current habits dont fully describe.

CrossEngine: Searching the web from one place

CrossEngine looks like a very interesting tool for hard-core researchers who desire aggregations of information with as little wasted effort as possible. CrossEngine takes a simple query. For this case, I'll use the term "iPhone".

The first thing I notice is that the default search is going to Google, it's appropriate and retrieves the same results as a regular Google search. I can then look at the results in any of the other search engines, traditional, blog or even fine tune my desired results to .pdf or .ppt.

I switch the focus to looking for iPhone images, and it gives me choices from Google Images, Picassa, Flickr and several others.

The concept is sound, it's interesting and while it's been done before by other sites, this one is by far the most comprehensive search aggregator I've seen. The power in CrossEngine is its simplicity of concept and the time saved when doing comprehensive cross platform research and searches.

The critiques I have is that while this may never really catch on with the casual searcher, this is a good tool to any competitive intelligence professional, marketer, interactive marketer (just to list a few) to get good information in a short amount of time. The second thing I like about this site is that it allows people who aren't familiar with some of the lesser known search engines or social media sites, it gives users a chance to experience something that they haven't seen before.

I do however, have a few critiques.

My first exposure to the site was a bit confusing. Take a look at the screenshot below:

I'm a huge fan of usability and design... the layout, the green check mark, the overall look and feel didn't inspire a lot of interest, it didnt guide me where to go or what to do. While I could have clicked the "learn more" link, I'm a firm believer that any site should be intuitive... the user should instinctively know what to do within 8 seconds of landing on the page.

In my humble opinion, it's a powerful and useful service that hides behind a somewhat wonky design.

Now, I know that a lot of people are going to hate the fact that the entire thing is using frames. From my perspective, it seems that this aspect is more of a necessity than anything else. I cant link to any of my searches, I cant show people the results I've found and I found that a little annoying because I do it so often with other engines. When I'm preparing detailed analyses for my clients, I often cite sources. With CrossEngine, that's not really possible unless I go directly to Google or Flickr and repeat the search.

If I were to change anything, it would be that feature... or at least have a button where I could download the source link from CrossEngine.

Overall, I like the idea, I think it has potential and I plan on using it for my next analysis. If I find anything really useful or cool (or annoying), I'll post that later.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fractal Blogging Strategies

Freaking hilarious.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 Launches Today - Social Networking for Social Causes launched this morning. It's a social network that promotes networking, communication, and non-profit support. This is a great idea that has needed to happen.

Having worked and volunteered for many non-profit organizations, I know that the plight of the fundraiser can be a fairly difficult job. It takes long hours, lots of research and of course, all forms of networking. The stress is high, but when you can see the efforts pay off, it's worth it. boasts support for over 1 million non-profits, which is amazing at launch. This will allow people to enter in and immediately find what they're looking for and hopefully instantly connect to people who want to affect the same change in the world.

Here's a screenshot of the homepage:

There's nothing about this site that I dont like, the social issues are listed in a familiar format, the statement asks the user a question... absolutely brilliant.

One of the things I've always heard about the internet is that it has the potential and power to affect positive change... and looks to be on the forefront of applying social change, social networking and all the best aspects of Web 2.0.

Prior to my current job, I worked in Psychological Operations for the US Army. During peacetime, we worked very closely with humanitarian organizations that promoted de-mining efforts in Southeast Asia. One of the more powerful aspects of this site is that people can gather around a similar issue like Banning Land Mines.

It's something that I'm passionate about and it's something that I've done in my life to make it a better place. On's Ban Land Mine page, users center themselves around an issue, upload videos, upload personal stories and recommend non-profits. For the land mine issue, there's no non-profits recommended, but for the issue of protecting a woman's right to choose, people have recommended Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. This is a powerful tool for people to talk about an issue, meet like minded people, network with activists and connect with non-profits. only takes 1% of the donation to each non-profit. This is an amazing tool for people and non-profits to benefit from social networking technology.

One of my critiques however, is that the issues involved arent that well developed. There are all the hot issues, but a search for "science education" or "evolution" doesnt result in any groups. They ask me if I wanted to start that group, but I would have liked to see some of the more minor issues represented. But honestly, all that is minor because it's the first day of launch and there's going to be gaps in the causes.

I hope they succeed, it's a great idea at the right time.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Wal-Mart... WTF Is a Firefox?

Good 'ol WalMart... Wally-World... the crawling chaos of the western world... has entered the digital movie space to much hooplah.

Good for them, they take an idea thats several years old and say "me too".

Nevertheless, I'm sure it took a long time to work out the legal issues, the technical issues, design issues and all sorts of great stuff.

So, can someone tell me why they never even bothered to check their site in Mozilla Firefox?

Here's what it looks like in Firefox:

I've never been a huge fan of Walmart and it's gaffs like this that remind me why I never go there or shop on their site. Ever.

shoutout to Techcrunch for the heads' up.

Google's Webmaster Tools Enhance Backlink Information

One of the holy grails of search marketing is to capture backlinks. It's hard to find the quality ones, it's hard to get some good (I hate the term) link bait, and it's hard to develop a backlink strategy that involves a ton of directories you've never heard of before.

Now that Google's added backlink information as a part of its webmaster tools, people like Matt Cutts and Andy Beal are reiterating the following:

- Do not assume just because you see a backlink that it’s carrying weight. I’m going to say that again: Do not assume just because you see a backlink that it’s carrying weight. Sometime in the next year, someone will say “But I saw an insert-link-fad-here backlink show up in Google’s backlink tool, so it must count. Right?” And then I’ll point them back here, where I say do not assume just because you see a backlink that it’s carrying weight. :)
So, if you can assume that viewing more backlinks that may or may not carry any ranking weight is inherently a good thing, the first question I had was what's the point? Why would Google add the links that they would essentially consider to be dren, when a simple will actually give me some of the links that actually lend weight to the ranking relevance.

To tell the truth, I havent exactly figured it out yet. I'm not sure what the real value is, but I do know that the more data revealed, there's a potential that more useful revelations can be made, however, it also carries the potential that data-overload and perception blindness might set in.

I'm definately going to play with this for a while and write again on how it can be turned from raw data into actionable intelligence.

A Vertical Search Engine for Coders: All The Code

There's been a lot of speculation about vertical search engines. Some think that vertical search will be the Google killer, others think they're ultimately doomed to fail under the giant footprint of the big 3.

Nevertheless, innovation is at the heart of the industry and it's good to see another vertial oriented search engine enter the field. All The Code is geared towards coders. However, it has a little bit of competition in the highly niched and specialized area: Koders, Krugle and Google Code.

Search Engine Watch has a great article about the launch of All The Code -

All The Code at this time is a source code search engine for the Java language only. Plans are in the works to add more languages later. All The Code has no mechanism for submission of code. This too is promised for the future. It looks like there is a lot of development still to do.
Visually, it's a little bland, it's a little pale... but it's not offensive and it's not annoying. I dont want to go off on the look and feel on All The Code because from the looks of it, it's got a pretty powerful result engine under the hood. Like all new search engines, it's pretty obvious they need to do some more work, some more tweaking and some more enhancements to the engine to include more than just JavaScript code, but once they start adding more coding languages, I think they have a great opportunity to give coders and coding students what they want quickly and efficiently.

They have sponsored links on the right hand side and on the footer, and I hope that's not their only monetization strategy, but for such a niche search engine, it might work. However, I'd imagine that most people using All The Code will be looking for coding help, any purchases of coding software or services would probably go to Google.

I hope they do well, and I think they are off to the right start. I look forward to seeing what they do and how they improve their engine.

Technorati Slaps 2000 Bloggers

Earlier, I wrote about the 2000 bloggers project. It was started by Tino Buntic who had an idea to connect the bloggers in a photo collage.

However, Technorati didnt seem to like the idea too much. According to David Utter, writer for WebProNews, Technorati views the 2000 blogger project as a "scheme" to manipulate blog popularity. Timo himself came out and said:

"I guess Technorati is upset with me. That doesn't feel good, now. Anyway, I got about 1700 on my collage. I don't even know if I should finish it. I'll take down the code to repost it."

While I liked the idea, the interactivity, the creativity of the project and I admire Timo for getting this started, I think what's happening here is Technorati ascribing "intent" in the project. In other words, just because it could be potentially viewed as a link farm or manipulation of the search results or technorati rankings, then it will be viewed as such. Technorati's hard line view on this practice is a little disappointing. It seems like they're throwing away the nature of the interactive social project because it's a potential manipulator.

The 2000 blogger project, while it did provide links to blogs, neither advertised itself as a way to capture links nor did it set up several image/ link collages and essentially limited itself to only 2000 blog participants. If this was a self perpetuating link farm, then I would have no problem with Technorati's stance. Unfortunately, it seems that the intent of the project was not enough to give sway to Technorati's staff who are closing it.

Oh well, links are like tools, they can be used to build and they can be used to destroy... they have the potential to do both. In this case, just because there was a potential to do bad things... they knocked it.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Doritos Ad - User Generated Video for the Super Bowl

One of the things I like about the Super Bowl is the mad rush and the pre-bowl ad buzz. There was a fairly innocuous ad with Kevin Federline (*shudder*) or K-Fed, imagining he was a rap star, when he wakes up, he's pulling fries out of some hot oil. Nationwide Insurance ran this ad, and of course, some people found issue with the idea of working in a fast food joint demeaning. This drew fire from restaurant groups.

Another ad from Snickers featured two guys mimicing Lady and the Tramp and accidentally kissing as they eat the Snickers bar from both ends. My friend Cord Silverstein sums that one up pretty well.

One of the ads that I really enjoyed was the Doritos UGV ad:

It was simple, effective, funny and endearing. Plus, it helps that the creators of the spot were from Cary, NC... a wonderful place to live.

It wasn't over the top, and it communicated the brand very well. I think that this could really be the next big thing for advertisers, tapping local talent, brand loyalists and aspiring directors to generate positive buzz (in the form of video)

Ten Ton Hammer Article Roundup: Beta Testing

My latest article about beta testing online games at LotRO @ Ten Ton Hammer.

Not too long ago, beta tests were reserved for a select few people who had connections, experience and a reputation for testing games, however, as MMORPG’s became more elaborate, more massive and more complex, gaming companies realized that they needed more people in the game to test various aspects of the game. They needed to see how massive amounts of people doing the same quests simultaneously would affect the stability, they needed to see how the server reacts when the population exceeds normal.
Read the full article at LotRO @ Ten Ton Hammer.