Changing the Currency of Influence via Search

There is no doubt that Google is the king of search but how did they become that way? In the old days (you know, before PageRank was dubbed irrelevant), the idea was that the number of links to a site, particularly by more “powerful” sites increased the relevance of an indexed page in the Google index. To this day, that philosophy holds, tho clearly the weight has shifted from “links of powerful sites” to “internal links”.

Google has not significantly adjusted how they determine the importance of an article, site or keyword in some time, tho they claim some 70+ algorithmic tweaks last year. And that’s fine. Google’s index is Google’s index. It has trained us how to search and what we expect when we search. It has taught us silently and we compare all other results to the Google results, despite the fact that Google results are in themselves arbitrary and based on their own determination via algorithm.

But I digress.

It’s interesting when new search engines or tools come out. It’s interesting to see the innovation as it takes place. One such tool that I discovered, almost by accident, does a good great job of building an index around links and pages passed around Twitter. This tool is Topsy, which combines Twitter Search with Google like results (in other words, the results are not tweets themselves).

For those of you not occupying your every waking moment on Twitter, it is by most objective measures, the new information aggregator – like RSS readers were supposed to be or portal sites try to be.

The currency of influence on Twitter can be summarized in two letters: RT (short for Retweet). Many bloggers are including the ability for stories to be “retweeted”, or redistributed on Twitter, and that is precisely what Topsy is measuring. (An example of retweeting capability on a blog can be seen on this blog – see that Retweet button at the end of the article?)

Much like Google set the currency of relevance based on links, an assumption that was valid at the time and still carries some level of validity today, Topsy has recognized that more influence is being distributed via Twitter and thus, a relevancy algorithm around this currency must be built.
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I don’t know if Topsy is a “Google killer” or even if they strive to be one. My guess is, it will never supplant Google in our lives. However, an ambitious approach to this new distribution of influence is an important, and enjoyable, thing to watch.

Vetoing FeedBurner

I’ve been a fan of FeedBurner for a long time. Going all the way back to the early days at b5media when they were a good company. Then they sold out to Google, and I warned any who would listen exactly who they would become. It was denied, though (most likely in good faith), and then they went down hill. Since the Google acquisition, they have slowly ported over to Google servers and infrastructure – an enhancement that was supposed to help. I can honestly not say if it has or it hasn’t. What I do know is that they are not noticeably better.

Then, of course, they had an outage today.

I’d call that the equivalent of calling out sick on the third day of a new job.

In the next 30 days, I have decided to remove all of my content from FeedBurner. They no longer have my vote of confidence, nor do I trust their competence. It’s probably a management thing more than technical. Much of the same team is still in place as was prior to the Google acquisition. You know, when they were good.

Please ensure that, if you subscribe to this feed using a feed reader (You really should use a feed reader… it does make blog reading so much easier. Despite my clear disdain for Google in this matter, I swear by Google Reader), you are subscribed to

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http://technosailor.com/feed

For the time, this URL redirects to FeedBurner, but it will soon not and you don’t want to lose the feed subscription.

For a very long time, we have needed a viable alternative to FeedBurner. I don’t think we need all the bling that FeedBurner offered necessarily. But we do need an alternative to FeedBurner that will take a feed, normalize it for the most feed readers, provide some insight around readership (such as number of subscribers) and an extensible framework/API for using and publishing that data.

I’d very much like to talk to anyone who is developing options around this concept.

Google Blows Up, Suggests the Internet is Harmful

It appears some sort of bug has snuck into the Google secret sauce. A feature that was intended to warn users of potential phishing sites has jumped the shark declaring the internet harmful. That’s right, every single result is deemed by Google to be harmful.

This is surely a bug and will be fixed but these guys really should be running some QA testing before rolling new releases.

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Modern browsers give the opportunity for you to select your default search provider for your in-browser search box. Traditionally, my search box has been set to Google. However, it’s set to Ask.com right now, and so far I’m happy with the results.

Update: TechCrunch had it first.

Update 2: Google Mea Cupla – it was the fault of a slash (/).