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Search Engines

Firefox runs a search engine? Jebus, who knew?

If you thought Mozilla was only about the Firefox search engine you’d be wrong.

Well, yes, you would be wrong if you thought Firefox was only about a search engine, yes, I suppose that is true.

This is from:

Barbara Kasumu is co-founder of Elevation Networks, a youth employment charity that aims to bridge the gap between disadvantaged groups and industry. She has worked with government departments, NGOs and various youth projects across Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and writes on youth unempoyment and careers for Telegraph Wonder Women. Follow her on Twitter @barbarakasumu

Eeek, eh?

Bad job ad of the day

I am looking for a freelancer who can build an Adsense site that will earn consistently $5-$10 per day at least for 21 days.

The problem?

Anyone who can do that reliably will already be doing it. Why would they hire themselves out to you for you to capture the gains of their work?

They would only be willing to work for you wages is they could not be doing it reliably: so why are you hiring them?

Reminds me rather of my (oft told) story about the turning lead into gold peeps looking for investment. If you can turn lead into gold why are you looking for investment?

On that Google doodle

If you use the main google page today you\’ll note that it\’s got a doodle on it.


Yes, when you run the Google barcode back through a barcode reader, it does indeed say \”Google\”.

But having scribbled about it elsewhere I wanted to use it to make a deeper point for you economic sophisticates. It\’s the difference between invention and innovation.

William Baumol makes the distinction between invention (of, say, the barcode) and innovation (the use of the barcode across the society). There\’s no real difficulty with invention across different economic systems. The Soviets certainly invented some prety spiffy stuff. Rather, the difficulty is with innovation, getting people to use the blasted inventions.

The barcode was originally invented to be used on railway cars and didn\’t really seem to be doing all that much until supermarkets picked it up. Then it exploded. Being able to work out how much of what was in the supply chain was a huge game changer for the entire manufacturer to retailer chain. You knew how much was going out through the tills, where and even at what time of day. You could track the boxes of soap powder from the manufacturer all the way through regional warehouses and so on to the housewife (indeed, with loyalty cards you could work out who that housewife was and where she lived).

It was the mastery of the implications of all of this that led (at least, as some tell the tale) to the fortune Sam Walton made with WalMart. And of course it was the competitive pressures on all and any retailers who were not using it by those who were that made the use of the barcode near universal.

So far, so what? Retailers profits went up perhaps, but the world didn\’t really change, did it? Well, in fact it did, in two rather important ways. The first is the obvious one that with a more efficient retail chain we\’re all paying rather less for our consumption than we would be with a less efficient one. This makes us richer, by definition.

The second is more of a postulation, a kite flyer, rather than an established fact. There are those who would say that some recessions (I\’m very much of the view that not all recessions are the same and that not all have the same causes) come about because of the stock that\’s in that retail distribution chain. If in a boom people are too enthusiastic about what they can sell they over produce. This then sits rotting in warehouses until the mistake is realised: so they stop, put people out of work and we get a slump in the economy. That huge level of stock eventually gets sold, more things are needed to replace them and people get hired again and off we go with growth.

Yes, I know that\’s very back of the envelope and no, it doesn\’t explain all recessions, nor probably all about even any of them. But everyone\’s model does indeed include this stock problem as at least contributing to the severity, if not as a basic cause.

But if we have much better knowledge about the supply chain, if we know what\’s going out through the tills then we know more about what needs to go in. So, ceteris paribus, we should have fewer things in the stocking chain than otherwise. Which will mean that whatever the effect of overstocking and then curtailing production is upon recessions, will be less than it otherwise would be.

This really has been seriously put forward as an explanation as to why recessions seemed, post war, (WWII that is) to be much less violent than they were before it. Simply because we knew more about what was in the retail chain and thus the swings from high to low of production were dampened. My own mildly informed guess is that this is true: not true enough to explain everything, but certainly to explain why things haven\’t been worse: even now. For example, the ships bringing tchotke from China are not clogging up the Port of LA trying to unload things no one wants to buy. The factories didn\’t make them in the first place and the ships are sitting empty in the Pacific. It\’s still a recession, but we\’ve got fewer hundreds of thousands of tonnes (millions maybe?) of shite to burn through before we start making things that people want again.

So the humble barcode: no, it\’s not resonsible for all of this (computers help for example) but it is a part of it: making us richer and making the economy less volatile.

Which brings us back to Baumol\’s point about innovation. Invention\’s the easy part, it\’s getting everyone to use the bastard things which is difficult. And that\’s where this mixture of capitalism and free markets really works. Rolling out the inventions across the economy so that productivity, efficiency, rises in general and thus we all get richer.

If you want more on this try this book. Yes, I got mine as a freebie, but it\’s still a good book. This one is cheaper.

Google Problems

So, I\’ve found out what seems to be happening at the other site.

Using the link: command, up until last week you\’d find that there were 10-11 thousand links to the site.

Now there only seem to be 2,000 or so.

So I know why things are not turning up as front page google results, as they used to.

But what I now need to find out is why is this happening?

Where did all those links go to?


Bleg on Google

So, anyone know what\’s going on with Google then?

Over at the other site we\’ve been getting pretty successful at getting first page results for various celebrity stories. OK, so they decay off the front page after a few days, but that\’s fine.

But traffic was up at 10k-15k page views a day.

Then two days ago it fell off a cliff. The same pieces that were page one (even number one) for certain strings are now page six.

Traffic is now down to 3k a day maybe.

Has there been some great change to the algorithm? Is there some manual penalty being applied to blogs with paid blog posts not using the "no follow" tag?

Is this part of a googledance and it\’ll all blow over? Or has there been some permanent change?

Anyone know?


Petronella Wyatt

Over at the old blog, a piece on Petronella Wyatt seems to be getting a lot of attention from the search engines.

I wonder why that could be? Has something happened?

Misunderstanding Google

Oh dear, someone really should have a little chat with the Guardian Leader writers.

The proposed merger has been about how other players could combat Google\’s increasing arm lock on search and the El Dorado of advertising that goes with it.

Google does indeed have the lion\’s share of search activity on the web. It also has the lion\’s share of contextual advertising on the web. And indeed, the excellence of the search engine when applied to where to place the advertisements is one of the explanations for the dominance of that advertising arm.

But the number of people who use Google to search is very little to do with the dominance of that advertising arm: the vast majority of the advertising revenues come from pages which Google itself does not serve up. Rather, it\’s Adwords and Adsense running on other peoples\’ pages which form the backbone of Google\’s finances.

If you get confused between those two things then you\’re going to end up, as The G does here, worrying about the wrong things. Google\’s dominance of search really isn\’t a problem: its dominance of advertising might potentially be.

I think the confusion might actually come from the newspaper mindset itself. In order to have the dominant position in classified ads (a rough and ready analogy for Adwords) a newspaper also needs to have the dominant circulation figures. But the web allows disintermediation, so this is no longer true. Google could keep the advertising dominance even if circulation (ie, share of the search market) fell, something that simply wouldn\’t be true in the newspaper world and mindset.

Symptoms of the Sub Prime

Top search on Google trends (ie, not the top search on Google, rather, the one which has shown the largest uptick in activity over the past hours or so): 

sell mortgage note

And, umm 100% of those searches were coming from Las Vegas. A place, as we know, which had one of the biggest bubbles and is now having the biggest deflation (or nhearly the biggest, at least).

Google Indexing

Hmmm. It\’s happened again.

Over at the other blog, had a piece insanely successful, about a certain Ms. Ashley Alexandra Dupree. It\’s not all that fascinating, being simply a link to a number of news stories. But it was a first page Google result for the search term and was bringing in the traffic (some 15 k page views yesterday).

Today it\’s not even in the Google index. But I think it probably will be again tomorrow.

What I think is happening is that Typepad isn\’t serving up the page fast enough when the Google Bot comes crawling by. If a page is getting a lot of traffic (as this one was) that is.

Anyone got any other explanations?

Project Quaero

The European Union\’s competition watchdog has appoved the use of €99m (£76m) of French state aid for a consortium attempting to build an internet search engine to take on Google.

It\’s French money being spent on a French project, so, good luck to them, no skin off my nose. However, I do smell at least a whiff of politicians being bewitched by technological dreams here. Google\’s a great search engine, there\’s no doubt about that. However, the actual company Google isn\’t valuable because of the search engine at all. The value is in Adwords, those little things up at the top left.

Seriously, in financial value, it\’s their near control of the online advertising industry that creates the value. If you launched a search engine that was 10 times better than Google, you\’d still not topple them from that position.

I (cynic that I am) get the feeling that the politicians doing the funding have been a tad starry eyed. If you want to get some of those hundreds of billions of $ of value that Google currently demands, you\’ve got to build a better advertising platform. The search engine is near irrelevant.

But then €99m of tax money to fund an advertising platform doesn\’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

How To Tell If You Are Famous

This is actually very tough.

Tom\’s Postulate on the Universal Nature of Fame

A person is truly famous if and only if his or her name, when entered in quotes into the Google search engine, returns more hits than does the phrase "she moaned."

Mother Theresa. for example, doesn\’t make it.

(A search for Internet fame, when it hits the stratospheric levels, yields one rather exciting result. You may recall that,

in the mid-1960s, John Lennon infuriated devout Christians by saying that the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus Christ. At the time, this was preposterous. Soon, it won\’t be. On the day I write this, "the Beatles" and "Jesus Christ" get an identical number of hits.)

The great thing about the she-moaned paradigm is that it can be used to assess the degree of fame achieved by people far less well-known — you, for example. You simply have to Google up a phrase that returns roughly as many hits as your name does.

This can be a humbling process, but the numbers do not lie. I discovered that I am four times less famous than "Hilary Clinton," which is a misspelling. It turns out I am almost exactly as famous as the phrase "popping a pimple."

I believe I have discovered the benchmark phrase for having attained a sort of minor, cheesy fame. You can consider yourself mildly famous if you have more hits than are returned for the phrase "What am I, chopped liver?"

But I can consider myself "mildly famous". w00t, eh?



Help with Mr. Google

The weirdest thing happened over the weekend. I had a post up at the other place which was getting some fairly serious traffic.  10,000 page views a day or so.

Then, sometime early Sunday morning, Google dropped that post from the index. In fact, they dropped all of my posts that were made on the same day from the index. They haven\’t reappeared today either (and I\’ve no idea about how to actually get in contact with Google themselves).

It just seems very weird. Just like everyone else there\’s a few scraper sites that pull off my RSS feed. They\’re still there, still showing the post. There\’s the various blog consolidation sites they\’re still showing the post is there. The index parts of the blog are shown to be on Google too. Just the actual posts from that day used to be in Google and now aren\’t.

Weird or what? Anyone got any ideas about it?

One other thing. Is there actually any way of finding out about the volume of searches on specific keywords? I kinda doubt there is as everyone would simply be targeting those, but anyone know?

More on the Google Algorithm

As I said a few days ago the traditional method of gaining a ranking in Google, using anchor text and linkage, a la Google Bombing, seems not to work any more.

The original entry was at number 41 in the listings, adding (or attempting to add) more mojo to it made it fall, significantly (somewhere in the hundreds).

Removing those attempts to add juice to it have had a really rather odd effect though. It\’s now higher than it was originally, at 13.

Hmmm. Clearly still rather more to learn here.