Sunday, April 29, 2007

wallstrip interview

If you haven't checked it out, I did an interview on Wallstrip that aired last Friday (4/27). I had a blast doing it. Lindsay and the crew were great. This show brings a great dose of entertainment to the button down world of hedge fund managers and bond traders. I met with founder, Howard Lindzon as well. Howard writes a lot of the material. He focuses on trends and his take on the market is smart, funny, and informed. Lindsay brings that girl-next-door thing, smart, beautiful, and charming; the girl you wished you would've gotten up the courage to ask out when you were in school, but you were friends and didn't want to mess that up. Anyway, check it out. Also, if you liked Justin Timberlake's "Dick in a Box", be sure to check out their goof on that with the analysis of company, Jack-in-a-box. Good stuff.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

search engine meeting

I attended the 12th annual Search Engine Meeting in Boston this week. Finally, nice weather in Boston! It was a beautful spring 70 degrees yesterday, while rainy and colder in my hometown of Boulder Colorado. Eventually travel karma comes around to reward the faithful.

The conference was very informative. It might be cast as more of what was absent than what was present. This is the premier conference for search engine technology, and was presented at by Larry Page and Sergei Brin back in the early days of Google. Now they send a product manager to talk about OneBox, Google's conquest of Enterprise data discovery, and as Stephen Arnold put it, an amazingly content free presentation. The absence was in the realm of the new, the ground breaking. Google leaves such a large wake, that instead of tackling the next generation of search, the competition has nearly seeded this to the domain of Google, while determining how to work within that hierarchy.

Two areas on my mind recently have been relevancy and intent. Relevancy is much too generalized in current search engines and too easily manipulated by search engine optimization efforts. Two primary examples come to mind. The first is blog search rankings. If you go to Technorati and look for the top blogs number 21 on the list is, a celebrity gossip site. This should actually be number 1 for some people, but for most wouldn't even appear on the list. Generalized relevance sucks. It doesn't address the real issue of what is relevant to me. In order to get this the search engine needs to understand a lot more about me. This brings me to intent. Intent is also a personal thing that cannot be captured with three key words entered into a search field. A number of vendors at the conference brought this up in the form of figuring out what single page or object to send a person to based on their search. For instance, one vendor brought up the scenario of someone in the enterprise entiring "quarterly west coast sales" which, instead of bringing up documents that include the words in the search string, would bring up a graph showing the last few quarters of west coast sales for the company. In this case you can infer some additional context because they are searching internal to the enterprise. You should also be able to pick up their role in the company, past results from similar queries that were selected, and selected results from similar queries by other people similar to the searcher (by role, demographic, recency). Google even talked about a few of these things.

Noticably absent from the presentation stage were Microsoft, Yahoo, and, or even that new "google killer" search company currently in stealth mode, I did see a business development manager from Microsoft approach one of the analyst luminaries in the field, Sue Feldman from IDC Research, and ask her what they could do to beat Google. I was standing right next to her in a discussion with Sue about Collective Intellect's technology. I kid you not, this is what she asked.

Bottom line is that vertical and social search are heating significantly. Natural language processing is neat, but nobody has figured out how to scale it to Google proportions, or even if they should, and the majority of startups are trying to figure out how to work within the Google world. I overheard a Goldman Sachs person once use the metaphor, "Dancing between the raindrops". I think it applies here as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

to boston (again)

The engines whir, drowning my thoughts of world conquest (or perhaps more accurately Google's thoughts of world conquest) while reading John Battelles's book The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. As we pull away from the ground, the mountains, snow capped from recent storms, beautiful in their spring glory, ride with me on my left. The plane's shadow, strong, dims and now ducks under the plane as we turn north eastward towards Boston. Good bye mountains, home, and family for the sixth week in a row, for another few days of "making it work." I'm reaching for the stars but as with the plane, it requires a lot of hard work, engineering, guidance, and good weather to keep gravity at bay.

This week I'm attending the search engine meeting in Boston and tonight have had the pleasure of spending the evening with Stephen Arnold and Dawn Yankeelov. Mr. Arnold is a veteran and visionary of the search engine space and truly someone who understands both the world changing semantic impact of search engine technology and where this industry (and it's defacto leader - Google) is going.

I'm also meeting with a potential channel partner and VC and with any luck will visit the green monster on Tuesday :)

Friday, April 06, 2007

wealthy people read blogs

A report published recently by the Luxury Institute on Web 2.0 adoption by wealthy consumers found that 76 percent of people whose income exceeds $150,000 per year read blogs.

This says a lot about the adoption of blogs as a mainstream source of information. I'm left wondering where they have taken their time from in pursuit of blog wisdom. Is the time spent taken from other information sources such as newspaper or television? Or is it coming out of work productivity or leisure activities? In any case this data point shows a continuing shift in information gathering activity by consumers. It also may be a further indication of the existence of a technical divide between rich and poor.

more travel woes

Have you ever gone out of Washington Dulles concourse A? If you have, then you know what a chaotic mess it is. I was traveling to New York again this week, but this time flew out of Kansas City. There are very few direct flights out of KC, except to hubs, so I took a connecting flight out through Chicago. I drove through a thunderstorm to get to the airport. The storm was moving towards Chicago, so guess what, O'Hare called a ground stop at the airport which basically shut down all incoming and outgoing flights. I had a 7:45am flight, connecting through O'Hare and arriving at LaGuardia at 1pm. Instead, I arrived around 5pm and missed all of my afternoon meetings.

This brings me to my flight back. Coming back I flew through Dulles. My first flight is 12:20 out of LaGuardia and makes it out on time. I have about a 2 hour layover in Washington so went and got a bite to eat. I'm scheduled out of concourse A but decide to go over to concourse B (the international concourse next door to A) to chill out and have some lunch. Concourse B is the polar opposite in terms of atmosphere. It's fairly quiet in the concourse. The gates are very orderly. Nice restaurants, Ben and Jerry's, The Tap Room, and even an area where you can get a massage, called the Massage Bar. My flight's already been delayed by an hour, so with about 45 minutes to go, I mosey back down to concourse A and wait for the flight at my gate.

Now concourse A is where they put all of the puddle jumper jets. They don't pull the planes up to the gate here, so all planes are boarded outside, climbing up the stairs into the plane. They board several planes out of each gate, sometimes in parallel. There are four gates down at the end of the terminal, so there's constant chatter over the intercom over flights boarding, flights delayed, calling stand-bys, and various other announcements. The chatter is at most times simultaneous, so it's nearly impossible to clearly get the entire message. To make matters even more stressful, motion alarms were going off every 10 minutes or so. Someone explained that it was when someone opened the doors from the outside to come back inside. I can't imagine a worse system. There were so many false positives that absolutely no one paid any attention to them. The flight had gotten delayed twice, so as I sat there I had struck up a conversation with a woman next to me. I heard them call my flight and something about "5pm" at the same time someone was shouting, "This is the Toronto flight, if you are not on the Toronto flight please step back from the gate!" I figured my flight had delayed yet again. Now, I should've gotten up to check, although the lines at the gate were about 30-40 feet long, but you guessed it, my flight had left without me. They had given up my seat without even calling my name. I was sitting 20 feet from the gate. Fortunately they had another flight leaving about an hour and a half after mine left and I was able to get on that one after talking to three different people, but it was an insanely frustrating experience. One of the people I talked to about getting on that next flight told me this happens all the time out of concourse A because no one can hear their flights announced.

Live and learn. Stay away from concourse A at Dulles. And, United Airlines, I expect better from you.

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