Real-time systems hurting long-term knowledge?

Whew, OK, now that I’m off of FriendFeed and Twitter I can start talking about what I learned while I was addicted to those systems.

One thing is that knowledge is suffering over there. See, here, it is easy to find old blogs. Just go to Google and search. What would you like me to find? Chinese Earthquake? Google has it.

Now, quick, find the first 20 tweets or FriendFeed items about the Chinese Earthquake. It’s impossible. I’m an advanced searcher and I can’t find them, even using the cool Twitter Search engine.

On April 19th, 2009 I asked about Mountain Bikes once on Twitter. Hundreds of people answered on both Twitter and FriendFeed. On Twitter? Try to bundle up all the answers and post them here in my comments. You can’t. They are effectively gone forever. All that knowledge is inaccessible. Yes, the FriendFeed thread remains, but it only contains answers that were done on FriendFeed and in that thread. There were others, but those other answers are now gone and can’t be found.

The other night Jeremiah Owyang told me that thought leaders should avoid spending a lot of time in Twitter or FriendFeed because that time will be mostly wasted. If you want to reach normal people, he argued, they know how to use Google.

And if you want to get into Google the best device — by far — is a blog. Yes, FriendFeed is pretty darn good too (it better be, it was started by a handful of superstars who left Google to start that company) but it isn’t as good as a blog and, Jeremiah argues, my thoughts were lost in the crowd most of the time anyway.

And that’s on FriendFeed which has a decent search engine (although it remains pretty darn incomplete. Here, try to find all items with the word Obama written in Washington DC on November 4th 2008. Oh, you can’t do that on FriendFeed and on Twitter search you can’t pull out the important ones and the location information is horribly inaccurate because it isn’t based on where a Tweet was done from, but from the tweeter’s home location).

Here’s an easy search: find the original Tweet of the guy who took the picture of the plane that fell into the Hudson. I can do it on FriendFeed after a few tries, but on Twitter Search? Give me a break. Over on Google? One click, but you gotta click through a blog or a journalistic report to get there. Real time search is horrid at saving our knowledge and making it accessible.

This is a HUGE opportunity for Facebook, which has more than 10x more users than Twitter and 100x more than FriendFeed.

Or, it’s how Google will get back into the social networking business and lock everyone out.

What do you say Larry Page?

Facebook: still a data roach motel when compared to Twitter and friendfeed?

Twitter has done something really remarkable: they have made the entire database of Tweets available to other companies. My favorite friendfeed is one of the beneficiaries of that “firehose” of data. You can watch my Tweets go from Twitter to friendfeed and back again. Oh, and friendfeed makes its firehose available to Twitter in return. You can see how this benefits both services. My liked items go from friendfeed to Twitter.

Now, what did Facebook do today? Well, it turned on an open stream API so that developers can put things into the stream over on Facebook. It also looks like developers can take some data off of the stream and use it in their own applications.

Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, has already shipped a version of Seesmic that does just that.

One big problem that Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at the ReadWriteWeb points out: Facebook is still keeping most of its users’ data private due to the privacy contract that it has made with its users. See, over on Twitter and friendfeed the bias for most user data is that it is public by default until you make it private (like, in friendfeed, you would have to open a room and make that explicitly private to be able to keep your data from going over to Twitter and over to Google. On Facebook it’s the opposite. If you use Facebook as designed your data only gets shown to your friends, not anyone else).

This is a HUGE difference between the openess of the Twitter/friendfeed model and the Facebook one.

Go see the comments on Marshall’s post. They are very telling about how poorly people understand what’s going on here and how they can articulate what they want.

The real elephant in the room is “where’s the money?”

The real money is in search. Yeah, I’m sure that someone at Facebook this afternoon will point out they are selling lots of display ads because they know their audience demographics pretty damn well (hint: Facebook knows EVERYTHING about who you are. I told it, for instance, that I’m a male 44-year-old democrat who loves skiing and photography, among other things).

But the REAL money has NOT shown up for Zuckerberg and crew yet. What’s that?


When I can ask Facebook “what sushi restaurants do my friends like?” ONLY THEN will you know that Facebook is getting close to the gold mine.

The thing is, Facebook doesn’t want to let you build that kind of business using its data.

THAT is reason #2 why Facebook isn’t going to turn on its real firehose for friendfeed to study, the way that Twitter has let friendfeed have access.

Reason #1, though, is that Zuckerberg hasn’t yet figured out how to change user expectations from having everything private by default to having everything public by default, the way Twitter and friendfeed work.

In an hour a group of us will be meeting with Facebook executives. If everything works out you’ll be able to follow along at as part of a special Gillmor Gang at about 4 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll definitely try to figure out how Facebook will change the default mode so that it can turn on the business social graph.

I also will find out if there’s a roadmap to opening up the data stream to include more data leakage outside of Facebook. If I were Zuckerberg I wouldn’t open that up until after I could change user expectations and get people to build a public instance of themselves. That could take a couple of years.

I wonder what you think of Facebook’s moves? Join us on the Gillmor Gang and over on friendfeed (we’re having a live chat about this post over on the beta friendfeed) and let’s see if we can learn something together about where Facebook is headed.

UPDATE: friendfeed cofounder Paul Buchheit just wrote this over on the live chat: “It’s not about defaults, it’s about ownership. On Facebook, you are not allowed to give other people access to your data, because your data belongs to Facebook. On FriendFeed or Twitter, you can choose to be public or private, but either way you can still access your data and do what you want with it.”

The best SEO/SEM info (crowd sourced)

I’m rebuilding my blog from scratch so wondered what other geeks thought was the best information about SEO/SEM. You know, the techniques you can use to make sure your blog or website appears as high up in Google as absolutely possible? So, I asked on Twitter and friendfeed and this is what happened. Funny that a Google employee answered the question within seconds of me posting it. Thanks to everyone for the help, does anyone else have any other sites/sources to add?

Apture: demo of cool service to build "super links"

As a blogger we have just one choice to build a link. Write an A HREF tag which builds a link like this one to Apture’s home page.

But Tristan Harris had a better idea. What if bloggers could build much better links to all sorts of things that could be opened up right on the page. Videos. Photos. Multiple articles. Etc.

Here he shows me how it works and how the New York Times is using it to make their pages more useful. By doing that content sites and blogs also keep you around longer and give you more opportunities to see their ads, so everyone wins.

This is very cool and I’ll be using this technology after I get my blog moved over to its own server (should be in the next week).

Is the real-time web a threat to Google search?

Is the Real-Time Web a threat to Google? Rackspace executive Lew Moorman sure thinks so.

He’s right. Fewer and fewer of my search behaviors have been on Google lately.

And last week friendfeed did something very important: made it a lot more possible to do powerful real-time web searches.

First, the problem with friendfeed is it is too geeky. But ignore that problem for a moment, because if they don’t get it right, or make it something that the mainstream wants, well, you’ll see the same kind of search show up on Facebook (which has been making moves lately to be much more open) or Twitter.

So, why is this stuff working?

Well, because it’s with your friends and THEIR behaviors. Your friends are a lot more trustworthy than anyone else. How do I know that? Because while I was in Davos George Colony, CEO of Forrester handed me the results of a report they did on Trust and they found that people you know are the most trusted. Far more than corporate or personal blogs. Yes, I know you don’t trust me that much. That’s OK. I don’t trust your blog much either. 🙂

But, if I know you (thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and friendfeed I have gotten to know thousands of you) I can build a much better recommendation engine.

Oh, and even more troubling for Google is that Facebook and friendfeed have a lot more metadata to study.

What is metadata? It is data about data. Well, in Google’s case, the metadata is the linking behavior of people in the web.

But look just on friendfeed. What’s the metadata there? Everytime I click “like,” something I’ve done more than 16,000 times now, I’m adding metadata. Everytime I add a comment, something I’ve done more than 8,000 times now, I’m adding metadata.

What other metadata is there? Well, they still can study linking behavior. I can link to my discussion of how cloud computing will change programmer behavior, for instance.

What else? Well, friendfeed knows how many of my friends also liked that item. They also know how many people clicked on that item (although they haven’t surfaced that information yet).

So, now, let’s look at search.

First, if I need to know who the best retailer is to buy, say, a Canon 5D Mark II, is it better to ask the people I know, like I did here on friendfeed, or go to Google and deal with the SEOs? Try doing that search over on Google. I did. Do you find a single retailer? I didn’t.

So, now, let’s get to friendfeed’s search.

Let’s do a search for anyone who has written about the Canon 5D MK II but lets constrain that to posts that have at least one like and at least four comments. Here’s the search. Note that the post I wrote just one minute ago is already in the results page. This is the real-time web.

Google won’t see that friendfeed item for hours and, even if Google’s spiders index it Google does not have enough metadata to study to let it do this kind of search.

Let’s keep going.

How is this for searching news? Well, right now Australia is burning. So, let’s search for “Australia fires” but lets constrain that search to anything that has five or more likes and five or more comments. Note the quality of the conversation that comes back.

How am I doing this? With friendfeed’s advanced search.

But it gets better than that.

How about we search for all Tweets that talk about the Australian Fires? We can do that.

“But can’t do that better?” Well, yes, but can it also just show you all the Google Reader items people have shared? Like friendfeed can? No.

Can Google search show you all the events that mention SXSW? No, but friendfeed search can.

Can you easily see all the YouTube videos that have the word Grammy in them? Probably over on YouTube you could do that. But can you now constrain the videos to the ones that have gotten some comments? With friendfeed you can.

But try doing THIS with Google: try finding everytime Dave Winer has commented on an item about netbooks. On friendfeed that’s easy. On Google? They don’t have the metadata to study.

Now, keep in mind that there aren’t many people on friendfeed yet. The numbers of comments there are not even close to enough to make all searches satisfying. But, look at friendfeed’s competitor Facebook. They have more than 150 million users already. What if Facebook were to get a search like friendfeeds?

Now do you start to see why I’m using Google less and less?

Lew Moorman is right.

Oh, and I got lots of answers to my Camera question before I was even done with writing this post.

UPDATE: you can search for “threats to Google” on friendfeed with this search. Fun to watch the comments come in!

Why Yahoo's announcement today won't get as much hype as Google's

Google shipped a new thing last night, called Latitude. I already put it on my cell phone. It lets me tell my friends where I am. Pretty cool, right.

But today’s Yahoo announcement of Search Pad should have gotten more hype, but it won’t. As I type this at 7:35 a.m. my old boss, Vic Gundotra, who now is VP of Engineering at Google, solidly has hold of the top spot on Techmeme. Yahoo’s announcement shouldn’t threaten it. First, since you probably haven’t heard of Yahoo’s Search Pad, here’s what it does:

Let’s say you are heading to Austin for the SXSW conference next month. If you were using Yahoo’s search engine (hint: most SXSW’rs haven’t been on Yahoo in months) it would notice that you’re doing a variety of associated searches about Austin. It would save those into a new kind of notebook. Or, if it didn’t notice for some reason that you’re looking for Austin hotels, Austin BBQ, Austin restaurants, fun things to do in Austin, etc, you could start your own Search Pad and copy and paste Web pages into it.

On the surface of it Yahoo’s innovation is the kind of thing that would have early adopters like me slobbering all over myself to tell you about.

But I’m not. Here’s why:

1. When Google released Latitude last night it was available to everyone. I never even heard about Latitude from Google until the press release came into my Gmail account and when I clicked the link to try it out it all worked and I instantly told my friends on friendfeed about it and they all tried it out too and we had a big conversation about it. When Yahoo releases Search Pad today? It’s not available to everyone. Only randomly-selected people. I can’t force it on. I can’t test it. We can’t talk about it.
2. When Google released Latitude it might not have been the biggest idea, but it was aimed at a shifting paradigm: mobile phone users. Yahoo’s Search Pad? Aimed at old school web users. These people are not being forced to change their behaviors, so will be tougher to convince to try anything new. Let’s face it, if you get a new iPhone, you are going to try a TON of new things compared to the web. That’s a paradigm shift and hype comes with things that latch onto paradigm shifts.
3. When Google releases things it usually has some goodies for alpha geeks. There’s usually an API, or an advanced feature or two that only people who read Stack Overflow, Scripting News, or Life Hacker can appreciate. Yahoo’s announcement this morning? No such thing. Google’s announcement? Has tons of language that appeals to early adopters. When I interviewed Yahoo’s Tom Che, Senior Director of Product Management yesterday he admitted they were going after everyday users with Search Pad. When I asked him if I could bundle up a bunch of things in a Search Pad and forward them to Twitter, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if I could get a URL to the Search Pad, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if I could share a Search Pad with my friends, the answer was “no.” When I asked him if it would work with Google’s search engine (sorry, most of us won’t switch to Yahoo) the answer was “not really.” (You can manually enter things into a Yahoo Search Pad that you’ve found on Google, but it won’t automatically build a Search Pad for you the way it would if you were over on Yahoo’s search engine).

So, excuse me if, when you see me doing interviews today in San Francisco (I have a ton of them), I am much more excited about Google’s future than Yahoo’s future. Yahoo doesn’t get it: to get its stock price to go up and to get people like me to get excited about its future they need to care about early adopters. It’s clear they don’t care, so why should I?

Got a real-time ego problem? Get a room!

Oh, be honest. You’ve searched for yourself on Google, right?

That’s an ego search. Here’s mine.

But doing ego searches today is far more complex than it was back in 1998 when I did my first Google ego search.

Today you have to look at what people are saying about you on Twitter, I use Twitter Search for that. On blogs (I use Google’s blog search for that). On friendfeed (you can search on stuff there). On Facebook. If you’re in the news you’ll want to track what’s said about you on Google News. And in other places.

What’s the best place to do that? Well, you might try a friendfeed room. Here’s my ego room. You can watch what people around the world are saying about me — in real time.

But, seriously, let’s stop talking about me for a while. My ego is big enough. Let’s talk about what you might do with a room like this that collects RSS and other real-time feeds.

1. You could create a room to track an event, or a tag on Twitter for an event. That’s what I just did with my Consumer Electronic room.
2. Want to get a group of people together who talk about certain topics? Here’s a room that is collecting tweets and blogs from doctors and health care professionals.
3. Got a blogging network and want to have a place to discuss it? Here’s the room for the Read/Write Web team.
4. Are you a company that’s trying to support your users in real time? Here’s Evernote’s room.

You can see all the rooms I’m following by visiting my friendfeed account and clicking on my rooms on the bottom right side of the page.

Anyway, sign in, and you can get your own ego-feeding real-time room. 🙂

Let us know what you’re doing with your room, leave the URL in the comments here.