Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SideReel Entertainment Search Engine

A business acquaintance of mine, Bart Myers formerly of GUBA, has launched a new editable entertainment search engine called SideReel.

SideReel is a Wiki type search engine which allows users to edit search results (more specifically the particular page about a topic) including updating broken links, episode descriptions, and cast lists. In Bart's email announcement about the new service he writes "SideReel is a user-editable index. If you find a link that is broken, incorrect information or just want to add something, you can – just click on the Edit icon on most pages. It's like Wikipedia, IMDb and on-demand TV all-in-one".

There are also links available through the search engine to full episodes of your favorite shows hosted at various places around the web.

I ran a search for "Heroes" (greatest show ever) and saw just one search result, but the end page (hosted on SideReel Wiki style) gave a complete description, cast list, crew list, similar shows, additional links (fan sites, etc.), episode guide, and links to NBC where you can watch past episodes.

I personally use episode guides quite often, so for me SideReel will be a good place to go for that. I'm not much for watching TV shows on my PC, but if you do SideReel is a good all in one place to get what you're looking for. Currently there is no advertising on the site so it's a nice clean look.

I didn't see any documentation on how they plan to handle spam edits on their listings and none of the links on the editable results pages have "nofollow". SideReel also doesn't require a user name to edit results so I could see where some link spammers might take advantage of this.

All in all, though I was very pleased with the site.

Congratulations Bart on the launch of your new service and good luck!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Froogle Still Shown in SMS Searches

As reported on the "Official Google Blog" Froogle has now been re-branded "Google Product Search". A quick look at shows the domain has been redirected to and all references to Froogle have been removed from this interface, yet Froogle lives on.

When running a search using Google's SMS based search service results for "price" queries still return "Froogle:" with the results.

To see for yourself SMS a query to Google for "price:plasma tv". I'm sure there all kinds of little references to Froogle lying around and it will take some time before all are removed.

For now, the Froogle brand hangs to life one forgotten piece of code at a time.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Search Engine Land "We Made Is"

Looks like Search Engine Land may be having some CSS browser issues on their 404 pages. The following strings of text appear when loading a 404 page in Firefox...

"WE MADE IS !!! COUNTER MOMENT IS REACHED !!!'; } else { $dleft = floor($difference/60/60/24); $hleft = floor(($difference - $dleft*60*60*24)/60/60); $mleft = floor(($difference - $dleft*60*60*24 - $hleft*60*60)/60); $sleft = floor(($difference - $dleft*60*60*24 - $hleft*60*60 - $mleft*60)); $countdowndate = date("l j F Y, G:i:s",$cdate); $currenttime = date("j F Y, G:i:s",$today); echo ''.$dleft.''; } } ?>"

Screen shot....

I'm guessing there will be a fix real soon ;)

Thunderbird 2.0

As reported on countless news sites and blogs Mozilla has released Thunderbird 2.0. I love Thunderbird and extensively use it for reading email, newsgroups, and RSS feeds.

I actually read more through Thunderbird (thanks to RSS) than I do through my browser. As a Thunderbird power user I thought I'd post a few thoughts on some of the new features offered in 2.0.

"Message Tags: Create your own tags for organizing email."

This could be helpful especially with the support for custom tags and Thunderbird's search functionality. It will be some time before I start tagging things, thanks primarily to my extensive message filtering, but I thought it was of interest.

"Advanced Folder Views: Customize the folder pane to show favorite, unread or recent folders."

I like this feature most because of the ability to switch your view to see only unread folders. When you have a ton of RSS feeds split into different folders or a long list of email folders fed with filters having the ability to just view the unread folders can help cut down your scrolling and search time.

"Easy Access to Popular Web Mail Services: Gmail and .Mac users can access their accounts in Thunderbird by simply providing their user names and passwords."

I tried my GMail account and it worked well. I don't get a lot of mail on GMail, but I could see where people would really like this feature.

"Folder Summary Popups: Mouse over a folder with new messages to see a summary of the new messages in that folder."

I saw this in action for half a second and couldn't get Thunderbird to display the summary pop up again. From what I saw it looked like an easy way to quickly glance at messages in a specific folder. Hopefully I'll (or Mozilla) will figure out why this feature doesn't always work.

"Saved Search Folder Performance: Search results for saved search folders are now cached, improving folder loading performance."

These "saved search folders" look similar to sub folders and you could probably do the same thing with a folder and filter combination, but having the ability to keep your messages in one folder and simply save your searches is a big help. The folders do load fast so whatever Thunderbird did with caching seems to have worked well.

You can get a full list of the release notes here. Everything else didn't really apply to me directly so I didn't feel like commenting. If you have the older version of Thunderbird I'd suggest you upgrade and try out all the new goodies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Error Hijacking. Code Orange

As reported by The Register, Orange Broadband in the UK is experimenting with contextual ad serving for unresolved domains.

The reason?

The register reports "An Orange spokesman said the move had been made "in order to deliver a better experience to our customers"".

As I pointed out in my post "Google Hijacking Unresolved Domains & 404 Error Pages?" this is a sticky situation. Mistyped domains represent a search for a specific brand (all be it a misspelled search) and if an ISP inserts contextual advertising a.) they're profiting by listing ads searched under someone else's trademark and b.) in many cases the original trademark owner may be paying for the traffic from that mistyped domain if they're advertising on the contextual ad network used to serve the ad.

Making trademark owners pay for a mistyped domain or allowing competitors to advertise on someone else's trademark doesn't seem right to me. I understand the drive to offer a better user experience, but perhaps suggested corrections rather than suggested ads would be a better way to go about this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bury Brigade Buries Digg

Social Media Optimization is *the* buzzword for 2007. Countless webmasters, bloggers, SEOs, and PR professionals are obsessed with increasing visibility by optimizing their site for portals like Digg, Netscape, etc.

Bury Brigade

One of the more interesting phenomenon of the social media experience is the so called "bury brigade" at Digg. This theorized group of Diggers are blamed for burying stories based on a 'group think' mentality of what is right and what is wrong for Digg.

The most publicized effect of the run away bury brigade is their hatred of anything to do with SEO. In Danny Sullivan's article "Diggers Can't Handle The Truth (About SEO)" on Search Engine Land Danny discusses an article he did about Jason Calacanis and how that story was buried after 30 minutes merely for the fact that the article had to do with SEO. Many other SEO bloggers and webmasters have experienced similar kinds of burying at the hands of the run away bury brigade.

Free Advertising

I personally just released an article (not about SEO) which was Dugg by a top Digger and received nearly 163 Diggs on it's own merit before it was buried by the bury brigade. This is the second time this has happened. Now in and of itself this is a frustrating event, but when I think back to all the free advertising and links I've sent Digg I start to cringe.

For starters I sent out an email announcement to my customers alerting them that I was integrating social media links in with my site and mentioned Digg by name. Secondly, I include a Digg link on any article I produce and was even in the process of including a Digg link on some of our more tools based pages.

The user base for my site is extremely technical and a great target market for Digg. Because of our social media optimizations (including Digg links on articles) Digg has gotten a ton of free advertising on my site. What have I gotten in exchange? One article on the front page of Digg and a string of articles buried before they even had a chance.

When will the madness end?

My story is probably similar to a lot of people. As webmasters we obsess over increasing our site's visibility and view social media as one more outlet to make that happen. As part of its nature social media optimization includes free advertising and links for social media sites. When a group like the bury brigade starts to arbitrarily bury content because of group think mentality they start to threaten the relevancy of the site.

I for one am a little frustrated with all the free traffic and advertising I've given Digg, so I'm on the verge of removing every Digg link from my site and never mentioning them again. I'll find another social media site to focus my optimization efforts on and give them the benefit of the free advertising and links. Are you with me?

What can Digg do?

For starters Digg can be a little more helpful with webmasters. While users tend make their site great, publishers help make their site popular by spreading the word by optimizing for their site. Digg is a flash in the pan and however long their social media rule will reign it will one day end. Don't forget that the "Digg Effect" was originally the "Slashdot Effect".

Digg can prolong their popularity by offering support for webmasters in the same way that the major search engines do and by reigning in the bury brigade. While user driven headlines are a great tool, user driven buries can be arbitrarily unfair. The result is a bunch of ticked off webmasters not willing to send links and traffic to your site any more.

My dream for Digg is to unite their community of users and their currently underground community of publishers to help generate even more interesting content for Digg's readers. By primarily focusing on user driven issues and largely ignoring the publisher side Digg is turning their back on half of the equation that made them a great site to begin with. Great content.

#or at least links to great content anyways#

Digg this?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A "First" in Ad Creative Trademark Violations

Once again a search engine has dumbfounded me by rejecting some of my ads after I make minor changes.

As part of a new campaign I'm launching, I needed to change one character on about 1000 of my Google Adwords ads. It was as simple as changing one three digit number to another three digit number.

One version of these ads contained the phrase "$x off your first month". The ads have been running for many months now with no problems. On this most recent update the only change I made to the versions with "$x off your first month" was changing that three digit number to another three digit number.

The ads were subsequently rejected because the word "first" was considered a trademark violation. Forget the fact that the ads were already running with the word "first" in them, the thing that bugs me the most is that a common English word would work it's way into Google trademark filtering.

Please keep in mind that there is no company in our market with the registered trademark of "first" so I'm sure this isn't the cause was. Furthermore I was using it a way that in no way would violate anyone's trademark.

I understand the need to filter ad creative for trademarks, but I would hope that Google were smart enough to differentiate between actual trademark violations and the use of common English phrases.

One way to go about this would be to associate trademarks with a list of key phrases. For example if I'm advertising on airline related terms the word "united" should trigger a trademark error message (needs human review), but if I'm advertising for a political campaign I should be able to use the phrase"united" with impunity.

We know Google can easily do keyword association for trademark filtering because of their keyword suggestion and broad match capabilities. I'm just hoping I won't see the day when every word is trademarked and I have to prove to Google I'm not using common English words to violate someone else's trademark.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Translation Vendor Selection

After a few recent positive experiences with one of our translation companies I thought I'd go ahead and give some props and talk a little bit about factors effecting vendor selection for translation projects.

I've been through several large translation projects in the past and have learned quite a bit along the way. I've even posted about some of these lessons before on this blog.

Before I give props to my vendor let me explain the two types of translation projects that web masters typically undergo.

Code Translation: This is where your translation company takes your website code and filters out all the little strings of code and translates the readable text left over. When they're done translating they re-insert all your code and in theory you would have a functional site when the project is complete.

Copy Translation: This is where you provide plain text to your translation company and they simply translate what you provide. You are then responsible for coding the translated copy into a functional site.

There are several factors that will dictate which type of translation project you need to undergo...

1. Volume of pages to be translated. If you have an existing site with a lot of pages, it might be easier to have your translation company scrub the code and translate the readable text. If you're just translating one or two pages it might be easier and cheaper to scrub the code yourself and just send over a plain text file to be translated.

2. Code complexity. Many sites will pull text from a central file and insert it into the rendered page. The file where the text is pulled from may be largely plain text. If this is the case it is cheaper and faster to provide that plain text file to the translation company. If you have a fairly complex code base you may want the translation company to use their automated tools to remove your code and translate your readable text.

3. Do the pages exist? If you haven't coded the page yet it is much easier and cheaper to provide a plain text file of the copy for your new page.

There are also several factors that may effect which translation company you use for a specific type of project...

1. Code filter quality. Almost every translation company has some sort of code filtering capability. Most of companies use off the shelf tools offered by a company called SDL. In my experience these off the shelf tools are moderately effective; however, if you have a fairly complex code base then you may find yourself with a huge mess when you get your files back. Some companies will also develop custom code filters designed around your code base. You'll have to pay a little extra to get the code filter built but the files you get back can be nearly perfect and can save you a ton of time during implementation.

2. Quality of translations. This is the hardest thing to check because let's face it, if you had employees who could read and write in the language you wouldn't be hiring an outside company. Be ware of translation quality and use some of the techniques I describe in my article "Translating a Website - Keyword Analysis" to make sure your translation company is providing accurate translations.

3. Cost. The primary cost driver for most translation companies is cost per word. The cost per word varies based on new words, exact matches, and fuzzy matches. In addition to cost per word, you'll also have to deal with project management, quality testing, and other similar fees. These vary by company and can significantly effect the end price.

I actually use different translation companies for different types of projects. Now, if you're a translation purest you're probably screaming about translation consistency about now, but if you manage your translation vendors properly through an established translation dictionary and detailed translation instructions backed by exhaustive research then you'll probably be okay.

The company I want to give props to is Click2Translate. They offer a nice interface for starting and tracking a translation project. They're best to use with plain text translations, but they can handle code filtering if need be. Their cost per word is competitive and because it's an automated ordering process there are no management fees. I like to use them for one off plain text translations like press releases, keyword lists, and ad creative.

They're fast, professional, and their web interface is easy to use. If you have small plain text translation projects I'd definitely recommend Click2Translate. If you have a project which requires a lot of code filtering I'd recommend you check out several different vendors and even have them translate a page or two on your site to see how effective their code filters are. The last thing you want to do is to finish a two month translation project only to find out your code has been butchered in the process.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Snowball's Chance in Texas in April

I know most of the US was experiencing record breaking temperatures this past Easter, but what amazed me was the fact that I was able to make a snow ball from the sleet / snow built up on my car parked in central Texas. Snow is rare enough in Texas, let alone enough of it to stick to any surface, but to be able to make a snowball in April is truly amazing.

My only regret is that I didn't save the snowball and put it for sale on ebay for $20,000. Oh well, I guess it's back to my quest to find french fries shaped like US presidents.