The last you’ll hear about Google for a while

The folks over at Microdoc news did some great research to try and prove the “are blogs clogging google?” question.

I think the experiment design is sound, using random recent searches at All The Web is acceptable input, though I’m wary of the qualitative value judgement that splits non-relevant and reduce search value into different piles. Non-relevant and reduced utility seem to be one and the same to me.

Without seeing the full results, I’ll trust the author’s judgement and concede that maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill by noting blogs in many of my searches. Perhaps it is that the topics I search for are being blogged heavily. Perhaps it’s that many good information sites have terrible HTML that makes them harder for Google to index.

An interesting estimate from that study is that almost 4% of all web pages on the internet could be blogs, which is kind of astounding.

Economy, Business, or Fo Shizzle Class?

Virgin Atlantic’s new “upper class suite” looks like it was designed for hip-hop stars on MTV’s cribs. This here’s my plasma screen, that’s my chill-out room over by the wet bar, and the jacuzzi’s in the back.

Or it was designed by Ian Schrager. Or Design Within Reach‘s staff was asked to produce something no normal person could afford.

Onboard massage?! A 6 foot, 7 inch long bed? Hmmm, contest to win a trip? Maybe that’s how I got an email about this in the first place, from previous games.

Some Examples

Ev took my previous statements to task, and I do admit I was light on examples. I was seeing my own site in search after search but didn’t bother to document them. Typepad offers a nice stat and referrer interface, so I just took a peek to grab some examples of what I was talking about. These aren’t my searches, but instead what people search for online and end up on my site. The following is a list of every search referrer that lead to the site for the past 2 hours (from 4:30PM to 6:30PM 7/23/03), keeping in mind that tomorrow the site is officially one week old:

tivo phone prefix

phillips dsr 7000 #1 and I barely mentioned it
tivo hack service call
hacking tivo series 2 another number 1
phillips dsr 7000 hard drive number 1 again
tivo series 2 setup network modem
hacking tivo I don’t see the site in these listings, though in the first few pages I noted lots of blogs
phillips dsr 7000 “home media” the only result
phillips dsr 7000
tivo dialing ethernet
phillips dsr 7000 support #1 result, and it leads to the front page instead of a post
linux pvr

Some of the posts on the PVRblog are helpful to the search terms being used here, but I would say the many (half? the majority?) aren’t that useful.

Do I hate blogs? Of course not, but I’ve been doing lots of research online recently (about music, elections, mortgages, and gadgets), and blogs are showing up for all sorts of things, and they’re not always helpful or directly related to the information I’m seeking. And again, i don’t think blog authors are doing it consciously, and I don’t think Google is favoring blogs for any special reason besides they happen to have all the properties of a great indexable site. I didn’t set out to give the blog haters credit for “ruining google,” I’m just making an observation here that I can no longer ignore. I love Google and it’s by far the best research tool out there, I just hope it can stay that way, especially when the flood of new users from services like AOL Journals start going online by the thousands.

Making Mozilla Better

I know this has been around for Firebird for a while, but the Flash Click To View extension for mozilla and firebird makes content sites with distracting, loud flash movies a thing of the past, and you can selectively watch the ones you want to. This is exactly the kind of user control you’ll never get in IE.

Maybe I should write for the Register UK too

note: update to this post

As much as I hate to say it, I’m starting to buy the whole “blogs are ruining search engines” hype that’s been spread around these past few months. Let’s look at what types of things a search engine like Google likes to see:

– frequent updates to webpages
– many incoming links
– meaningful page titles
– important text wrapped in header elements
– meaningful page filenames

In the web’s history, few sites did all the above well, so using these properties as criteria in locating good sites could be reliable. I think it’s a total accident that blogs do all of the above well, especially those with nice Movable Type setups that create meaningful page titles and filenames, and those designed with CSS and using well-structured content. I don’t think people set out to do each thing specifically to gain in google rankings, but the cumulative effect of all the above is pushing blogs high into searches for almost anything.

Now that I’m doing the PVR blog, I’m doing a bit of research for every post and when I run searches for TiVo and other terms, I’m finding a disturbing number of basic searches end up with the PVR blog in the top ten. Someone might point that out as a great success, but keep in mind the site started on Thursday of last week — it’s 4 days old.

Tonight I started to write up a review of a product and found that a search for the product name gives my photos of said product as the #1 result, with the actual product in second place. My site is days old but outperforming the more useful site that has been around for a couple years.

Something isn’t right in Googleville and perhaps it’s time to figure out new criteria for predicting a high quality informational site that doesn’t instantly favor blogs.

A nice first

As a life-long cyclist, I go to a lot of bike company sites. Today I went to BiGHA, a bike company that makes some pretty cool looking recumbent bikes, and they’ve got a useful, great site with tons of personality. I also couldn’t help but notice it is the first bike company I’ve ever seen that plainly has “weblog” in their site’s navigation. Pretty cool, and goes with their open, personal company image completely.

Hopefully this is the first of many bike companies to have weblogs (oh, I forgot Terrible One has a blog too and it’s usually loaded with the owners’ news and great photos).

The Web’s Amish

I noticed in the PVRblog referrers that the site Digital Video Recorders (DVRs)” href=””>has been listed in Yahoo and that reminded me of how strange it must be that there are still Yahoo Surfers that do directories by hand for the search engine. I immediately thought of the Amish. These people scour the web for new interesting sites, constantly adding, editing, and tweaking their huge handmade taxonomy of all things web, while in the background millions of robots do their job better. Yet in the face of that, they keep pressing on.

On the Information Superhighway, Yahoo Surfers have orange triangular safety reflectors on the back of their buggies while the Googlebots whiz on by.

Donuts ‘n Porn

Jason’s got a spectacular post about how business can acquire trust and regular customers by doing their best to deliver what people want, as quickly as possible.

The comparison between a music company and the donut guy reminds me a lot of a similar more obvious comparision I’ve been meaning to make for years:

Jack Valenti and Hilary Rosen could learn a lot from porn.

Remember the old jokes from the 90s about how the internet was nothing but a place for free porn? Well, it sort of was, and still is, but you don’t hear about porn companies making a big fuss over people downloading free porn. You know why? They’re too busy making a large profit. What about file sharing networks? Places practically built on free porn? The Adult film industry is embracing it and using P2P to post $750 million-to-$1 billion in profits. This quote from the article is apt:

“The adult industry is leading the way in peer-to-peer and begining to monetize it instead of fighting customers,” Hunter said. “Any smart merchant can’t look at a mall filled with 200 million people and not look at the opportunities to set up a kiosk.”

The story of the donut man reminds us all there are two ways a business can view people crowding around their valuable products: either as thieving pirates that must be stopped at all costs, or as potential customers that can bring in a lot of money. As a business owner, what view is best for your profits?

I’ve been playing with Typepad for the past month or so, and I liked it so much I’ve been trying to come up with a reason to start a new blog over there. Well after some brainstorming I found a good reason: PVRblog (I’ll be mapping to it soon).

Though it’s just me writing for now, eventually I’ll be adding friends that are also TiVo/Replay/Freevo power users and hackers to offer their perspectives. I’ve got a backlog of things to write about there, including my adventures with a Directivo that I upgraded a couple times, my on-going project to build a TiVo that does it all (including reviewing every part of it and covering the installation in detail), and reviews of the upcoming TiVo hacking books.