links for 2005-06-30

My Web 2.0

I have to say that I’m really happy to see My Web 2.0 launch (I got to see a beta demo a couple weeks ago). It’s not immediately apparent, but it’s personalized social search, using shared bookmarks between friends. I wrote about this back in December 2003 when I tried to come up with ways then-new social software sites could be useful. My second idea was to combine Friendster with Epinions so that you could search for reviews among your circle of friends, but I had it all backwards. Instead of turning Friendster into a search engine, Yahoo flipped that, by incorporating Yahoo 360 contacts into search.

My first thought when seeing this after thinking “cool, they built what I always wanted!” was that the bookmarklet posting interface does look a lot like the delicious posting interface, but I think these services serve different needs. I use delicious to bookmark all the neat things I find online, but Yahoo’s search is more for reference things and epinions style bookmarks I want to save for later and share with friends. I guess though I’ve used delicious for a couple years now I still think of most material there as ephemeral, while I’m thinking My Web at Yahoo is better suited to permanent storage.

I’m changing my default browser search to Yahoo for a few days to see how it grows and becomes useful. It’ll be interesting to see how the search gets better the more friends and saved pages get added. I’m already getting random other users mentioned above normal search results so that’s a good sign. I can’t wait to see what it’s like in a few weeks when I do a random general search and find friend-approved links to exactly what I wanted instead of spammy search results or general information sites.

The other great thing I like about Yahoo’s new search is that it attempts to circumvent one of my pet peeves: search engine spammers. Search engine gaming to get your URL high up in searches is a selfish act that degrades everyone else’s experience and it’s grown into a huge industry. Google has been gamed endlessly for years now to the point at which many general results have begun to suffer. I’m hopeful that if I limit my yahoo contacts to people I know and trust, no amount of search engine spamming in all the world by the SEO community will be able to muck up my results. In effect, this new search could kill an industry I thought would outlast the cockroaches, and that’s a great thing.

Ross has a good summary of what this new push means for the worlds of social software and search. I’m curious to see what Google’s next move will be. Hopefully they’ll buy delicious and incorporate that.

Marketing shills

This Boston Globe article about blogs that shill products without disclosing their connections is an eye opener. I suspect that as underhanded SEO techniques become more obvious to Google, companies will move into this sort of hidden message marketing by paying bloggers to load up entries with fake testimonials for products they’ve never used.

Take a look at Jeff Cutler’s old blog entries by scrolling down here. You see obvious keyword linking that jumps out like “Credit Cards” and “Funeral Flowers”. Of course, Jeff doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong and the article closes with “In our opinion, paying bloggers is no different than Tiger Woods getting money to wear the Nike logo.”

Of course there is an obvious difference: Tiger Woods actually uses Nike products. Also worth noting is that it may very well violate FTC guidelines. [via]

links for 2005-06-27

Bursting any day now

The writing has been on the wall for ages but the real estate bubble’s getting really bad lately. Now I know my friends in SF have been hearing about it for a decade, but let me tell you: it exists and it’s real because it’s hit my out of the way corner of Oregon.

I remember before the internet bubble burst and friends in far off places like Austin, Texas were talking about all the new construction, the big salaries, and lack of employable talent. I remember thinking if the madness that happened South of Market could migrate halfway across the country to a place like Austin, it was bound to burst. NY and SF are where the internet hype started, and I’d call LA and Seattle 2nd wave cities. Austin I’d consider a third wave beneficiary of the bubble time and if it ever burst, those in the 2nd and 3rd wave would be hit hardest. Just a few months later everyone I knew in a Texas dotcom was out of work.

So we’ve owned our first home for about 18 months now and I watched real estate up here for a while before we moved, and prices barely budged. But in just the past six months, everything is skyrocketing. We are considering moving up to a house with an extra bedroom (having a baby that gobbles up your extra room tends to make you want to upgrade) and we found out our home has gained quite a bit in value in this short time. We were thinking a price that was about 10% over what we paid in late 2003 was pushing it. Turns out the local market is bearing a 30% gain on the house in this short amount of time.

Of course, any gains we make from the bubble will be gobbled up by a follow-up purchase. When we arrived in Oregon, I distinctly remember how refreshing it was to see affordable housing that was completely unlike the Bay Area’s ridiculous prices. What is shocking to me today is that this small out-of-the-way town in pretty much the middle of nowhere has a couple new neighborhoods with large custom homes pushing the half-million dollar mark. It’s like the Bay Area all over again, but worse since it feels like we’re sort of in one of those third wave kinds of places far from the source.

When things are getting bad this far off the beaten path, I have a strong feeling the end is near. The economy is doing better than it was, but it’s not great. The interest rates are really what is making this happen and they have nowhere to go but up, causing the entire house of cards to collapse. I’m counting the days until that happens and wondering if I should take the plunge in this market. We hope the next house will be something we can grow with and hold onto for a good 10-15 years, so maybe any temporary market correction is moot.