Cuil: Why I’m trying to get off of the PR bandwagon…

Sarah Lacy, tech journalist for Business Week, has a post that demonstrates well why I am really trying to get off of the PR bandwagon.

See, on Sunday night a ton of blog posts all went up. Most of which were pretty congratulatory and hopeful that there was a “Google competitor.” Tech journalists desperately want there to be a competitor to Google. Why? Monopolies are boring to cover. The best tool a story teller has is when there’s conflict. I like to tell people this world is just like high school. Think back to high school.

In your high school, did anyone talk about the geeky kid who stayed after school to build a science fair project? In my school, which had lots of geeky kids, no, not usually. But if there was a fight in the quad would everyone talk about the fight for days afterward? Yes.

Journalists thrive off of conflict. That’s why we want a competitor to Google so badly and why we play up every startup that comes along that even attempts to compete with Google.

The problem is that competiting head on with Google is not something that a startup can do.

Let’s say someone really comes out with a breakthrough idea in search (which would be a feat all on its own, since Microsoft and Yahoo are spending tons of engineering time trying to find something breakthrough too). If they got all the hype that Cuil did (NPR and CNN played it up, not just tech bloggers) and people really liked it, they would spread it around like wild fire.

Do you have any clue about the infrastructure that Google has in place to handle the kind of scale that it sees? Try half a million servers. Half a million!!!

Think about that. How much money does that take to build out? Hint: a lot more than $30 million that was invested in Cuil.

So, Cuil set itself up for a bad PR result in the end. Either it wouldn’t meet the expections (which is what happened after people started testing it) or it would fall over and fail whale like Twitter has been for the past few months (because it wasn’t built to handle the scale).

Notice that other search companies don’t build up their PR like that. Mahalo never says it’s going to be a Google Killer, just that it’s going to do some number of searches better. In fact, Mahalo uses Google on its own pages.

Why PR works and why I want off

Note that Lacy said she wasn’t pre-briefed on Cuil (Techcrunch says that the company briefed every tech blogger and kept them from trying the service before release). That’s not true: I wasn’t briefed, either. But now, go back and look at the TechMeme rankings. Were either my post (which was harsh, but fair, but published several hours after the original wave of PR-briefed bloggers and journalists) or Lacy’s on there? No.

See, if you want to earn links and attention in this world you’ve got to be first, or at least among the first articles to go out. I’ve seen this time and time again. I call it the Techmeme game.

But it affects Digg and Reddit and FriendFeed, too. The stories that got discussed the most on those were usually among the first crowd.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m going back to what makes me passionate. I don’t get passionate when reading a press release, or listening ot some executive on a conference call (I was dragged onto one of those the other day and I stopped it mid-stream, saying, “can I come and see you face-to-face?”)

I also find that I’m getting back to reading my Google Reader feeds, looking for other people who are truly passionate about technology or business and who are looking for innovative approaches to either.

There’s a TON of interesting blogs there that never will get to Digg or Techmeme. Same thing over on FriendFeed. Lots of interesting stuff being discussed on the Internet that never will get the “Cuil” treatment, but is worth your checking out.

For instance, I’m just over the top about Evernote. How did I miss that for so long? Funny that a PR team brought me that, too. So, sometimes this game DOES work out, but note that I didn’t try to be first to get Evernote, I just kept seeing it getting praise from the bloggers I read.

Anyway, help us all get off the PR bandwagon. What are you passionate about? If you could go anywhere in the world and meet with any geek, executive, or company, who would it be?

What are you finding is bringing real value to your life? Hey, even go outside the tech industry. Is there something we should all be checking out and giving as much attention to as we’re giving to Cuil?

148 thoughts on “Cuil: Why I’m trying to get off of the PR bandwagon…

  1. Fair is fair and Cuil is fairly cool and the media hoopla on the Cuil launch is well deserved and totally understandable (even if a bit harsh). After all, Cuil was built by a team of top-notch ex-Google engineers. But did you know that another new search engine — built by a team of top-notch ex-Google users — has surpassed Cuil in traffic this month? And with nary a lick of media love. Check out NeXplore Search (www.NeXplore.com) vs. Cuil (www.cuil.com) for the month of September using whatever website traffic comparison tool you prefer — Google Trends, Alexa, Compete, etc. Cuil’s focus — more algorithmic complexity. NeXplore’s focus — a more visually engaging and productive search results page. Seems pretty clear which approach real folk prefer…

  2. Fair is fair and Cuil is fairly cool and the media hoopla on the Cuil launch is well deserved and totally understandable (even if a bit harsh). After all, Cuil was built by a team of top-notch ex-Google engineers. But did you know that another new search engine — built by a team of top-notch ex-Google users — has surpassed Cuil in traffic this month? And with nary a lick of media love. Check out NeXplore Search (www.NeXplore.com) vs. Cuil (www.cuil.com) for the month of September using whatever website traffic comparison tool you prefer — Google Trends, Alexa, Compete, etc. Cuil’s focus — more algorithmic complexity. NeXplore’s focus — a more visually engaging and productive search results page. Seems pretty clear which approach real folk prefer…

  3. I didn’t care for Cuil. I don’t care about the number of results as long as I get what I’m looking for….and that didn’t happen with Cuil.

    altsearchengines.com mentioned a new search engine that is supposed to give you exactly what you’re looking for (thus the name, UbExact).

    Fire Fox web developer tools are pretty cool.

  4. I didn’t care for Cuil. I don’t care about the number of results as long as I get what I’m looking for….and that didn’t happen with Cuil.

    altsearchengines.com mentioned a new search engine that is supposed to give you exactly what you’re looking for (thus the name, UbExact).

    Fire Fox web developer tools are pretty cool.

  5. Interesting post but I’m not sure how you can break out of the tyranny you describe:

    “See, if you want to earn links and attention in this world you’ve got to be first, or at least among the first articles to go out. I’ve seen this time and time again. I call it the Techmeme game.

    “But it affects Digg and Reddit and FriendFeed, too. The stories that got discussed the most on those were usually among the first crowd.”

    In a world in which news, and particularly tech news, is distributed globally almost instantaneously, there is a high premium on the first dramatic take or analysis. A more considered view might be better and more accurate but, hey, who’s got time for that?

    In the UK, this phenomenon – the overwhelming importance of impact – was nailed by Tony Blair, of all people

    http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Politics/documents/2007/06/12/BlairReustersSpeech.pdf

    … and was more recently discussed by his former PR chief Alastair Campbell:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/alastair-campbell-the-cudlipp-lecture-775278.html?r=RSS

  6. Interesting post but I’m not sure how you can break out of the tyranny you describe:

    “See, if you want to earn links and attention in this world you’ve got to be first, or at least among the first articles to go out. I’ve seen this time and time again. I call it the Techmeme game.

    “But it affects Digg and Reddit and FriendFeed, too. The stories that got discussed the most on those were usually among the first crowd.”

    In a world in which news, and particularly tech news, is distributed globally almost instantaneously, there is a high premium on the first dramatic take or analysis. A more considered view might be better and more accurate but, hey, who’s got time for that?

    In the UK, this phenomenon – the overwhelming importance of impact – was nailed by Tony Blair, of all people

    http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Politics/documents/2007/06/12/BlairReustersSpeech.pdf

    … and was more recently discussed by his former PR chief Alastair Campbell:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/alastair-campbell-the-cudlipp-lecture-775278.html?r=RSS

  7. seems to be cuil is correcting their mistake. i felt they launched the website without fulfilling the basic requirements.Couple of days back a serach for “microsoft .net ” returned 0 results as their search engine does not recognize “.”(period) . today i found it resolved.

  8. seems to be cuil is correcting their mistake. i felt they launched the website without fulfilling the basic requirements.Couple of days back a serach for “microsoft .net ” returned 0 results as their search engine does not recognize “.”(period) . today i found it resolved.

  9. I think your move away from the PR bandwagon is a very smart one. When I tried running my own ‘tech blog’ for about eight months last year, one of the reasons I stopped was that feeling of being on the eternal PR treadmill.

    I lost my voice, became like everybody else, and for me, the fun quickly drained out of blogging about tech. When the fun went, the enthusiasm went after it, so I quit the blog, and stopped reading all others in that genre.

    A few weeks ago, I came back to yours out of curiosity, just in time to see you go through your latest crisis, and I sympathised, and started reading again to see how you tackled what I’d already been through.

    I like the new angle – good luck with it!

  10. I think your move away from the PR bandwagon is a very smart one. When I tried running my own ‘tech blog’ for about eight months last year, one of the reasons I stopped was that feeling of being on the eternal PR treadmill.

    I lost my voice, became like everybody else, and for me, the fun quickly drained out of blogging about tech. When the fun went, the enthusiasm went after it, so I quit the blog, and stopped reading all others in that genre.

    A few weeks ago, I came back to yours out of curiosity, just in time to see you go through your latest crisis, and I sympathised, and started reading again to see how you tackled what I’d already been through.

    I like the new angle – good luck with it!

  11. Uhhh… I don’t like Cuil (or Ciul, or… whatever!)

    The say that “Cuil searches more pages on the Web than anyone else”… and i din’t see my websites yet!

    So…. i think i’ll return to google world again!

    eheh

  12. Uhhh… I don’t like Cuil (or Ciul, or… whatever!)

    The say that “Cuil searches more pages on the Web than anyone else”… and i din’t see my websites yet!

    So…. i think i’ll return to google world again!

    eheh

  13. kudos to you for telling it like it is. i’m glad to hear you doing the straight talk :) btw, thanks for bringing Evernote to my attention. i’ve been trying it out for a couple of days now. as to your question:

    “Anyway, help us all get off the PR bandwagon. What are you passionate about? If you could go anywhere in the world and meet with any geek, executive, or company, who would it be?”

    i’d like to hear more about the tech-wizards and geeks who are addressing our ailing broadband infrastructure — http://www.techcrunchit.com/2008/07/31/the-consequences-of-an-ailing-broadband-infastructure-begin-to-surface/

    kick ass and be still.

    ~C

  14. kudos to you for telling it like it is. i’m glad to hear you doing the straight talk :) btw, thanks for bringing Evernote to my attention. i’ve been trying it out for a couple of days now. as to your question:

    “Anyway, help us all get off the PR bandwagon. What are you passionate about? If you could go anywhere in the world and meet with any geek, executive, or company, who would it be?”

    i’d like to hear more about the tech-wizards and geeks who are addressing our ailing broadband infrastructure — http://www.techcrunchit.com/2008/07/31/the-consequences-of-an-ailing-broadband-infastructure-begin-to-surface/

    kick ass and be still.

    ~C

  15. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2006/10/71888

    “When Page and Brin first moved into the garage, Google had just been incorporated with a bankroll of $1 million raised from a handful of investors.”

    Smart people post y2000 want security, that’s the problem. Cuil isn’t going to bankroll your 401k, and that’s why you don’t see Googles any longer. Period.

    Blaine Cooke took the solid paycheck at Yahoo, and I can’t blame him.

  16. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2006/10/71888

    “When Page and Brin first moved into the garage, Google had just been incorporated with a bankroll of $1 million raised from a handful of investors.”

    Smart people post y2000 want security, that’s the problem. Cuil isn’t going to bankroll your 401k, and that’s why you don’t see Googles any longer. Period.

    Blaine Cooke took the solid paycheck at Yahoo, and I can’t blame him.

  17. “Think about that. How much money does that take to build out? Hint: a lot more than $30 million that was invested in Cuil.”

    Heck yeah you could. These people are lazy and stupid. They happen to be rich too.

  18. “Think about that. How much money does that take to build out? Hint: a lot more than $30 million that was invested in Cuil.”

    Heck yeah you could. These people are lazy and stupid. They happen to be rich too.

  19. I love Evernote! I downloaded it from the App store thinking it would be a good tool for my 12-year-old son to use for writing down homework assignments (and for me to keep tabs on them with the automatic syncing). Instead it’s my new best friend! (At least until I find I have a gig’s worth of old meeting notes on my phone . . .)

    BTW — want to get a blank stare fast? Use the word ‘cloud’ in a conversation with normal people.

    Here’s someone I think you’d love interviewing: Harry Webber. (Disclosure: I’m working with him on something called the Institute for the Advanced Practice of Advertising, a nonprofit think tank we’re recruiting ad people for.)

    Harry is a traditional ad guy — he’s in the Clio Awards Hall of Fame for lines like “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But he’s also a very solid web 2.0 guy, so he sits exactly at the crossroads of old and new communications. Here’s a post from his weekly column that shows the contrast between old and new: http://www.madisonavenew.com/mad187.html

  20. I love Evernote! I downloaded it from the App store thinking it would be a good tool for my 12-year-old son to use for writing down homework assignments (and for me to keep tabs on them with the automatic syncing). Instead it’s my new best friend! (At least until I find I have a gig’s worth of old meeting notes on my phone . . .)

    BTW — want to get a blank stare fast? Use the word ‘cloud’ in a conversation with normal people.

    Here’s someone I think you’d love interviewing: Harry Webber. (Disclosure: I’m working with him on something called the Institute for the Advanced Practice of Advertising, a nonprofit think tank we’re recruiting ad people for.)

    Harry is a traditional ad guy — he’s in the Clio Awards Hall of Fame for lines like “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But he’s also a very solid web 2.0 guy, so he sits exactly at the crossroads of old and new communications. Here’s a post from his weekly column that shows the contrast between old and new: http://www.madisonavenew.com/mad187.html

  21. One of the areas that I think gets only a small amount of play from the tech sector is using the developments that are happening online to HELP journalism and newspapers instead of HURTING them.

    It seems like everyone just takes it for granted that all new online technology is bad for newspapers. That’s hardly the case.

    I’d love to talk to almost anyone at the New York Times about how they are expanding and experimenting with technology. I’m sure there are tons of tech startups who are working on projects that will also help newspapers, and I’d like to see which companies those are and what they’re working on.

    I feel like it’s time to move past the “OMG newspapers are screwed!” stage and move on to the “look at these challenges and how can we solve them?” stage…

  22. One of the areas that I think gets only a small amount of play from the tech sector is using the developments that are happening online to HELP journalism and newspapers instead of HURTING them.

    It seems like everyone just takes it for granted that all new online technology is bad for newspapers. That’s hardly the case.

    I’d love to talk to almost anyone at the New York Times about how they are expanding and experimenting with technology. I’m sure there are tons of tech startups who are working on projects that will also help newspapers, and I’d like to see which companies those are and what they’re working on.

    I feel like it’s time to move past the “OMG newspapers are screwed!” stage and move on to the “look at these challenges and how can we solve them?” stage…

  23. I hate how people seem to just blog something and praise it, just because its new and they got an inside scoop. So many wannabes are so desperate for traffic, that they’ll shill for anyone who gives them an early line on a story.

    Cuil is awful, I’ve tried it, the results it returns are pretty damn useless, I find it so hard to process the results because it generates massive previews, rather than simply the name of the result, and the whole thing just smacks of “our-designer-learnt-javascript-last-night-so-now-everything-moves-if-you-mouse-over-it”

  24. I hate how people seem to just blog something and praise it, just because its new and they got an inside scoop. So many wannabes are so desperate for traffic, that they’ll shill for anyone who gives them an early line on a story.

    Cuil is awful, I’ve tried it, the results it returns are pretty damn useless, I find it so hard to process the results because it generates massive previews, rather than simply the name of the result, and the whole thing just smacks of “our-designer-learnt-javascript-last-night-so-now-everything-moves-if-you-mouse-over-it”

  25. well, the feel of the author is right. I have been trying to work on my sisters website to bring it up in PR, but google plays strange games. Everything that it wants is been done, yet it drops of the PR in no time.

    No doubt if huge companies can get effected, like what u said , then we are nothing!

  26. well, the feel of the author is right. I have been trying to work on my sisters website to bring it up in PR, but google plays strange games. Everything that it wants is been done, yet it drops of the PR in no time.

    No doubt if huge companies can get effected, like what u said , then we are nothing!

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