Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google releases astonishingly bad Blog Search

The much anticipated Google Blog Search was released today, and now I understand why it was held back for so long. As I've heard, it was being developed for the past 3 years, and has been "on deck" for over a year. Evaluating blog search is hard (evaluating any kind of search is hard), but generally blog search optimizes for either freshness or relevance in actual blog posts, or toggles between the two. You can do that here, but Google blog search is apparently optimized for neither -- its stated purpose is finding blogs on a certain topic, and boy is it bad at that. But what it mostly it delivers is blog posts. Take my search for "celebrity". There's a small chunk at the top giving the "related blogs" to that search, but then the rest of it is classic keyword matching:

Related Blogs:
Celebrity Baby Blog - The only website devoted to celebrity babies (and their parents)!
Celebrity Baby Blog - The internet's only source dedicated to Celebrity Babies!
Hollywood Rag - Celebrity Ragazine -
Celebrity Calls -
{ KOREAN + celebrity } - Korean Entertainment @ LiveJournal

Oxfam Auction - grab celebrity seconds
5 hours ago by Katie
Oxfam's Suffolk division is due to hold a charity auction of various bits of celebrity jumble. It's being held on the 1st October in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Sk8 er-girl Avril Levigne (or Lasagne as the Bayraider gang prefer to call her) ... Shiny Shiny -

SNL Celebrity Jeopardy
1 hour ago by Best Week Ever
"Here's the entire collection of all 13 "Celebrity Jeopardy" episodes on Saturday Night Live. Enjoy!" Relive your favorite SNL Celebrity Jeopardy moments. I pose a conundrum to you, a riddle if you will. What's the difference between ... Best Week Ever Blog -

Celebrity Fit Club
8 Sep 2005 by Jeanne
The other night while exercising on my recumbent bike, I turned the basement TV set on and watched back-to-back reruns of Celebrity Fit Club on VH1. Talk about a motivator. There is something about watching washed-up celebrities trying ... Out and Back -

I can't see any reason to switch, Technorati's recently release Blog Finder has gone further down the road in the direction I want to go. It's not perfect, but you can see where it's going.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Decisions based on Intuition vs. Data

In today's Sunday New York Times, there is an article in the business section devoted to Sanford Weill, of Citigroup. There I find this quote:

He was largely intuitive and his deals didn't come from plotting, planning and study; they came from his own instincts and connections.

And in the eGang group this month, Barry Diller explained why he bought his first web company, he wasn't sure why, "It was nothing but instinct." In contrast, the biography of another self-made billionaire, Warren Buffett, starts with a description of how obsessed he is with numbers, with data, with information.

One of the questions a colleague of mine asks in job interviews is, On a scale of 1 to 10, do you make decisions based on data (1) or intuition (10). I liked this question. I answered 10. I make my decisions almost entirely based on intuition. Data, as I see it, can be molded to fit any agenda, and is based only on the past. Most decisions will impact only the future. Data is a good slave, but a poor master. And of course, there are decisions you have to make based entirely on data, i.e. this insurance policy provides the same coverage as that insurance policy, but is $500 cheaper.

The interview question is a bit of a trick question, however. It is more of a test of the person's ability to make decisions, to be decisive. The worst answer you can give is 5.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Glocalization and Web 2.0

Yes! We've all been circling around what "Web 2.0" really means, and I think Danah has gotten to the heart of it in her latest blog post. All this talk about read/write and user-generated content and people finding what pertains directly to them: she sums it up quite beautifully:

In business, glocalization usually refers to a sort of internationalization where a global product is adapted to fit the local norms of a particular region. Yet, in the social sciences, the term is often used to describe an active process where there's an ongoing negotiation between the local and the global (not simply a directed settling point). In other words, there is a global influence that is altered by local culture and re-inserted into the global in a constant cycle. Think of it as a complex tango with information constantly flowing between the global and the local, altered at each junction.

During the boom, there was a rush to get everything and everyone online. It was about creating a global village. Yet, packing everyone into the town square is utter chaos. People have different needs, different goals. People manipulate given structures to meet their desires. We are faced with a digital environment that has collective values. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in search. For example, is there a best result to the query "breasts"? It's all about context, right? I might be looking for information on cancer, what are you looking for?

A global village assumes heterogeneous context and a hierarchical search assumes universals. Both are poor approximations of people's practices. We keep creating technological solutions to improve this situation. Reputation systems, folksonomy, recommendations. But these are all partial derivatives, not the equation itself. This is not to dismiss them though because they are important; they allow us to build on the variables and approximate the path of the equation with greater accuracy. But what is the equation we're trying to solve?