Rant: Silicon Valley Fenetics

Yes, intentionally misspelled. Phonetics.

Phonetics and mashup are all the rage in Silicon Valley web 2.0 start-up naming conventions right now.  When it was Digg, FaceBook and Skype, this was different.  It was cool, fresh and neat.  You could not help but ask yourself, what’s that?!?

Now, it’s not cute anymore (‘sup Pownce and Jaiku!). Instead it signals, “Oh, another 2 dot-bomb.” OK, maybe we’re not there yet, but you get the point.

Branding gurus are charging clients tens, hundreds of thousands for not-so-cheeky plays on phonetics or slamming two words together.  Read TechCrunch, and you’ll find posts littered with examples:

Out of the three of these, there’s only one I like: TasteBook. Why?  Because it tells you or at least gives you an idea of what it does.  TasteBook allows Shazam-Poster-C10097475users to create and order custom hardback cookbooks (“tastebooks”). BTW, that’s what a company name is supposed to do. Tell potential buyers, partners and investors what kind of business it is.

One must wonder how much longer this latest naming fad will continue.  And if you don’t think it’s a fad, how many eGoofy cos and .bombs can you name in five seconds? Pets.com, eHarmony, eLuminant, etc., etc.

P.S. As a result of this rant and as a tribute to Doug Haslam, I’ve decided to rename my PR firm Shazaaamr.

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Google PageRank Penalties For Network Blogs

It appears this morning that Google has issued pagerank penalties on network blogs. This was first brought to my attention by Darren over on his blog who saw his blog drop from a pagerank 7 to a pagerank 4. Interestingly, Problogger.com is a solid pagerank 6 and it redirects to problgger.net, so I don’t know entirely what to make of that.

I’ve seen Technosailor drop from a solid pagerank 6 to a pagerank 3 in most cases. Engadget was dropped from a 7 to a 5. Copyblogger also was dropped from a 7 to a 4.

A number of people have emailed, Skyped or Twittered looking for an explanation of this. I am not Google so I can only offer speculation. If I had to guess, it comes down to nofollow not being applied to “permanent links”. Last month, we saw Google penalize people selling Text links without nofollow added. This month, we are seeing networks who links among themselves penalized.

This is where I find tremendous fault with this Google action. If you remember back to six months ago, all our b5 blogs linked to all other b5 blogs. It was a tremendously lengthy and unwieldy blogroll. We recognized at that time that for practical reasons, as well as search engine purposes, we needed to keep the blogroll limited to relevant links. Thus entered our second version blogroll which now presents relevant blogs within our network based on the channels they are in. I think it’s safe to assume that people interested in Lindsay Lohan, might very well be interested in Brad Pitt or Britney Spears. Likewise, people who like First Person shooters are probably gamers interested in breaking video games news from one of the worlds leading sources. Folks wanting to know about Apple products might also be interested in iPhone discussions over at Cellphone9.

Makes sense right?

Google doesn’t like it. But here’s my beef. Google’s algorithm, as tremendous as it is, doesn’t consider common sense like this. Either that or there was some anti-spam vigilante assuming that blogroll links are spam regardless of the topic and manually culling from the index.

At b5media, we are weighing how we want to respond to this. Either we give in to Google and let them dictate what we do and have the unenviable position of losing pagerank and possibly advertising dollars, or we take the stand that quality content is quality content regardless of Google and that our content will speak for itself. We still produce millions of pages of content per month. We still have respect in the community. We still have advertisers recognizing that these sites are valuable assets to leverage to get their campaigns out on.

I’m interested in your take on this blood bath. Please weigh in.

Update: Duncan Riley weighs in at TechCrunch

The move by Google could well cause many smaller blog networks, including a number with funding, to close given their heavy reliance on text link ads and related sales that depend on strong Google page ranks for each site. Although traffic alone can and does sell ads on bigger sites, a drop from say PR7 to PR4 in one example makes the ad sell that much more difficult, particularly on blogs with little traffic. I’d suggest that the Deadpool will soon see a number of new entrants.

Deadpool is a little extreme but he makes a good point.

Update: Video comments!

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The Pervasive Web

A lot of people have begun speculating about Web 3.0. I don’t want to even go there. Some folks have been calling it the “semantic web” which refers to the more tightly integrated ability to find information in a manageable way. That’s probably not a great definition either. But what the heck, I don’t agree with it either.

The official next generation of the web is what I call the pervasive web. The pervasive web speaks to the redistribution of what we know as the internet – browsers and computers interacting with data and service and even people – into a truly “always available” experience. The concept behind pervasive web is that you the user can access your information wherever you might be and interact with the global community wherever you might be, in whatever method is available. You know – the right content, at the right time, in the right place on the right device.

The closest thing I see to pervasive web today is Twitter which has been my favorite thing to blog about recently. Through Twitter, you and I can interact with each other and our world while sitting in front of our computers or while walking the dog via our cell phones. This is pervasive web. This is pervasive conversation. Facebook comes in quickly behind this by allowing folks to message each other and update their status messages from wherever they are.

I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely frustrated by the limitation of most of the web to 17-30″ of screen space. At some point, the internet will emerge from the finite boundaries of screens and truly cross over into real life. That’s the pervasive web and that’s where we’re going.

Rick Segal, who in full disclosure is one of b5media’s VCs, wrote a post called “The Wheels of the Bus” the other day that caused me to think harder about this concept. He wrote:

Walk among the people; the real people. Watch, ask, listen, ask again, listen again. You can spot trends, solutions, validate ideas, etc, by taking the train and bus to work. For example: In the U.S., the Sunday paper has an insert section that contains a big pile of coupons and flyers from local grocery stores. Millions of households base the shopping plans around those flyers. Who has the hamburger on sale, etc. Nobody has successfully pulled off a comparison site that let’s you put in your shopping list and simply tells you, go here, take these coupons and save this much. Massive audience of rabid people who try to squeeze every penny out of the grocery budget. There are actually some good reasons why and I’ll cover this in another post but the larger point is that in talking to people, I know this is a big deal based on hundreds of hours of research on this one.

Rick is hitting on something thoughout his article and I highly recommend you read it. At the end of the day, listening to what people need in day to day life and delivering on it is the key to business success. I think it goes beyond business success. I think it taps into the future of the web. We’ve seen companies come along like Tripit which organizes travel itineraries and Slingbox which allows for cool interaction between your television and the internet (and for whom my friend Dave Zatz works for) figure out ways to meet peoples needs in real life. Lots of companies are cool ideas, but these guys are actually listening to what people want and figuring out how to deliver it.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who when you talk to them about the internet react with something about not wanting to sit in front of a computer after they are done with work. Hey, somebody help these people out!

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