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Google Real-Time Tweet Search Identifies the Tech Elite

Credit: Heart of Oak

Want to know if you’re truly in the technology elite? Let Google tell you!

Try this:

  • Go to Google
  • Type in your name and the word ‘twitter’ (e.g. hutch carpenter twitter)
  • Look at the results

If you see real-time search results at the top of the page, congratulations! You’re a VIP! If not, well, sorry about that.

As was well covered a few months back, Google has made a deal with Twitter to get the real-time firehose of tweets. The actual rollout of tweets in search by Google is still a work in progress.

But I stumbled across this interesting test of Tech Worthiness in doing research for a different blog post. Some searches result in a display of real-time tweets at the top of the page. What’s interesting is who gets this treatment.

The graphic below shows the Google search results for six different people, along with the word “twitter”:

At the top, you can see four people who are elite. They have real-time tweet searches right at the top of the search results:

  • Louis Gray – uber chronicler of Silicon Valley and Web 2.0
  • Charlene Li – ex-Forrester analyst, co-author of Groundswell, founder of Altimeter Group
  • Chris Messina – leader of the OpenID effort
  • Jeff Bezos – founder, CEO of Amazon.com

Jeff Bezos is interesting. He does have a twitter account, but they’re all protected tweets.

At the bottom, you see a couple of the non-elite in the tech world. Ashton Kutcher, the first man to the moon…er…to reach 1 million followers on Twitter does not get the real-time tweet treatment from Google.

And alas, I am not part of the tech elite either.

So there you have it. Google has provided a handy test to see if you’re part of the Tech Elite. Go see how you’re doing.

UPDATES

Several people reported to me on Twitter that they could indeed see my real-time tweets on Google using ‘bhc3 twitter’. Now I had tried that last night and this morning, got nothing. Now they’re showing up, as you can see in the picture below, taken from my iPhone:

When I ran the “hutch carpenter” tweet search on Google last night, there were no results. But on Twitter search, there were a few results.

Ashton Kutcher is frequently mentioned on Twitter, but he doesn’t show up on Google real-time tweet searches. His handle, @aplusk, is also mentioned frequently. Google tweet searches on aplusk were not bringing up his real-time tweets last night. But they are this morning.

A search on ‘Chris Messina’ yields @chrismessina in the real-time tweet search results. So Google does some association there between the two terms.

And there remain people who get no results, no matter what. So the exact nature of this real-time search is a bit murky.

Yet it still appears that the known “tech elite” show up readily.

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Blogging Those Tweets? Get Rid of the Nofollows

A regular habit I have is to blog My Ten Favorite Tweets for each week. These are my own tweets, and they mostly contain links to interesting things during the past seven days. One thing I’ve always liked is that I can give “link credit” to the sites that I include in these weekly posts. This blog has a pretty respectable Google pagerank, so it can help other sites posting good content.

But alas, I have come to learn something. Twitter inserts the “nofollow” attribute in any links included in tweets. What is a “nofollow”? From Wikipedia:

An HTML attribute value used to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index.

When you paste a tweet from Twitter to your blog, the links include the “nofollow” attribute inserted by Twitter.  See below:

On FriendFeed, I asked some SEO-knowledgeable folks about this “nofollow” attribute I’ve been pasting in to my blog posts. AJ Kohn and Jimminy confirmed that because that “nofollow” is in there, the search engines aren’t giving link credit.

So the great content doesn’t get the credit in search engines it deserves. Now I need to go back and remove those pesky “nofollow” attributes.

Keep this mind if you paste tweets into your blog posts.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 111909

From the home office in the restarted Cern Large Hadron Collider along the French-Swiss border…

#1: What Shaun White & Snowboarding Can Teach You About #Innovation http://ow.ly/E8h7 Get exposure for ideas early, so others can digest impact

#2: Managing Employee Innovation Communities (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/3SREBr #innovation #e20

#3: City of Manor’s “citizens’ innovation” project (using Spigit) is featured on WhiteHouse.gov blog: http://ow.ly/DURl #gov20

#4: RT @CarolineDangson #IDC Social Survey: workers say they use IM for ‘collaboration’ & social networks for ‘sharing’ – thinking about diff

#5: RT @rotkapchen: RT @wimrampen Social Media Disrupts Decision-Making Process http://bit.ly/2KTUIz (via @GrahamHill)

#6 RT @tjkeitt Starting the process of researching #e2.0 technology pushed into business processes (CRM, ERP, project management, etc.). This is the future.

#7: RT @kevinmarks says @Caterina “Google never got social software – Knol means you have to write a whole article; wikipedia combines tiny contributions” #w2e

#8: Pitching Sequoia? They want to know which deadly sin your company lets customers indulge in http://ow.ly/DGn1 by @glennkelman

#9: Checking out: The Awesomeness Manifesto http://ow.ly/DmID by @umairh Much to love in that one #innovation

#10: Time Magazine is apparently torn between naming Twitter or the Economy as its “Person” of the Year http://ow.ly/CRbB

How Should Tweets Be Ranked in Search Engine Results?

Tweet searchAnyone remember when Loic LeMeur had the temerity to suggest Twitter rank its search results by the number of followers people have? His post, with 109 comments and reaction from Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble and many others, clearly struck a nerve.

Fast forward to the past couple weeks. Both Microsoft Bing and Google announced deals to provide tweets in search results. Let me say that again: Google and Bing will be providing tweet search results!

Bing’s version is the first out the gate. In light of the earlier brouhaha, this may come across as insensitive…but I have to ask:

How should tweets be ranked in Bing and Google search results?

I hope your answer isn’t, “I wouldn’t.” Because that’s contrary to what made Google such a global powerhouse used by billions every year. And why Microsoft is working hard to increase Bing’s market share. Google and Bing built their business by presenting search results based on the authority of websites. This system of authority (e.g. PageRank) makes the results relevant to users.

So what about running searches for tweets? Should their presentation be utterly devoid of any authority ranking? Does it make sense to just show the latest tweet containing a given term? After all, that would simply be imitating what Summize (aka Twitter Search) does.

First, a good question to ask is, why do people want to search tweets? How does this differ from web search?

Why Are You Searching Tweets?

To my mind, there are three use cases where people will search for tweets rather than search for websites:

  1. Find people
  2. Find latest on a subject that won’t show up in search engines yet (lack of indexing, lack of authority)
  3. Jump into conversations on something

Find people: You’re interested in a topic, and want to find others who can either improve your knowledge on it or with whom you want to connect. This is using Twitter as people search. The model for all of here is, you are what you tweet. It’s what makes you findable to others.

In this case, my sense is that people will have an desire to find those who would have the most authority on a given topic.

Find latest on a subject: The appearance of an article or blog post in the search engines can take a while. That contributes to the challenge of finding the latest. But the more pressing issue is the display of new articles in the search results. A good article or post on a subject, such as Enterprise 2.0, is likely not going to be ranked very high in the Google or Bing search results. No one links to the article yet, and it competes against a bunch of other incumbent articles in the search indexes.

If something shows up on the third page of Google’s search results, does it really exist?

This issue is even more pernicious for current events. The San Francisco Bay Bridge has been closed for several days now. It seems every estimate about when it will reopen has been wrong, meaning we all have to scramble to figure out our commute for the next day. To get the latest on the Bay Bridge, I searched Google, including the aggregate news results. Everything was too old when I did that, reflecting previous pronouncements. I needed what people knew right now. I went to Twitter, and found tweets that told me the latest status. Very helpful.

To find the latest on topics, I think there is a role for leveraging some sort of authority. People who have established credibility can be good first filters on what’s relevant and useful. For Enterprise 2.0, what is Dion Hinchliffe tweeting? For the Bay Bridge, I most trusted the KTVU tweet I saw.

Jump into conversations: This is Twitter as water cooler. You know something is going on. But how do you connect with people? Searches are good for this. Hash tags for conferences or big stories. Take the recent fraudulent #balloonboy story. It definitely captivated everyone. But even now, you’ll see tweets like this:

Watch top quality streaming Movie -> Up here http://cli.gs/dpNT5N Make $ From Home #mileycomeback #balloonboy

What is that? That’s someone taking a popular hash tag and polluting the search stream with spam. Again, a case where adding some authority to the tweet search rankings will help.

Tweet Authority Criteria

Keep in mind that “authority” is used in the context of Google and Bing searches. Of course web searches miss many authorities on subjects, but they work pretty well for giving relevant information.

I categorize the bases of authority in three buckets:

  1. Relevancy of tweet stream to a subject
  2. Crowdsourced signals of authority
  3. Effectiveness in providing relevant content

As a point of reference, Bing’s initial measure of relevance was reported to be the number of followers a person has. Let’s look at the three categories of authority.

Relevancy of Tweet Stream to a Subject

The first basis for authority should be…does someone tend to post about a given topic? Frequency of posts are a good marker that a person has something of interest to share. If someone is going to be deemed an authority on a subject, I’d expect a fair number of tweets related to it.

One twist that would make this better. A semantic basis for linking terms. For example, if some one searches on Foo Fighters, consider people whose tweet streams include posts about “music” frequently as having higher authority.

Crowdsourced Signals of Authority

What does the crowd think of a given person or tweet? Let’s start with a single tweet. If someone posts something on a given topic, and it gets retweeted a lot, that should count hugely in terms of its authority for a given topic.

OK, now for the general stats. How many followers does someone have? Yes, it’s getting gamed. So the presence of a high number of followers isn’t an automatic definition for authority. But it does have relevance in constructing authority.

The benefit of computing this for users is that the authority of those who follow a person can be an input into his or her own authority.

Next… Twitter Lists. Number of followers is not the end of the story. Lists have two characteristics that can be used to compute authority. First is the number of Lists one is on. Tim O’Reilly is on over 2,500 Lists. No surprise – he really made ‘web 2.0′ ubiquitous in our culture.

But an even better indicator of authority is embedded in Lists. How does the crowd characterize a person? Those Lists are valuable for granting higher authority for a given topic.

Effectiveness in Providing Relevant Content

When someone tweets, how do people react? Robert Scoble has a good take from his blog post:

  1. Number of retweets of that tweet
  2. Number of favorites of that tweet
  3. Number of inbound links to that tweet
  4. Number of clicks on an item in Twitter search

I particularly like that #4 item – number of clicks. Once these tweets are in the Google and Bing search results, the clicks can be measured. These are powerful bases for measuring someone’s authority.

I’d add a measure for how often a shared link is clicked; say bit.ly’s click information. While the actual number of clicks tracked by bit.ly is wrong, let’s assume it’s wrong in a similar fashion for everyone. So the bit.ly clicks counts can give a measure of relative effectiveness in providing content.

What Do You Think?

That’s my somewhat exhaustive description of inputs for ranking tweets in Google and Bing search results. There’s more that would be needed. I can think of incorporating some element of time decay in how tweets are presented as well. But this post is long enough.

What do you think? How would you rank tweets in the big search engines?

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 101609

From the home office in a balloon 7,000 feet above Colorado…

#1: Well, this was unexpected. The Spigit funding news has hit Techmeme http://bit.ly/3ETPFp #e20 #innovation

#2: LinkedIn: 50 million professionals worldwide http://ow.ly/uq7s “Last million took only 12 days” Wow. Tipping point?

#3: RT @mwalsh: Seth’s best post of the year – get over yourselves…you’re not that cool, interesting or smart. http://bit.ly/3HwrV6

#4: Is Social Media the New Cigarette? asks @billives http://ow.ly/u8IY Looking at social media addiction

#5: RT @nyike First Jive, now Spigit building #e20 and collaborative functionality on top of Sharepoint http://bwbx.io/hina

#6: Within firms, collaboration technologies are dictated by most powerful person involved in the collab http://ow.ly/tJgf by @amcafee

#7: Just as interesting as this WSJ piece is, Why Email No Longer Rules… http://ow.ly/tZpj are the skeptical cmts left by readers #e20

#8: If companies like $GOOG and $MMM excel and incl employee 15-20% personal time for innovation, why haven’t others adopted same?

#9: Wind farm firm makes sure its wind mills are 30 miles away from nearest Starbucks. http://ow.ly/tRQP Why? Best way to avoid NIMBY’s

#10: When a company gets funding, all sorts of interesting “opportunities” emerge. Just got a solicitation for Spigit to sponsor a NASCAR driver.

Use Your Company Blog to Catch Search Term Typos

If your company or product name can be misspelled, this is for you.

At Spigit, a prospective customer related this to us recently. A few months ago, they had heard of Spigit in one of the usual ways – reading, word of mouth, etc. At some point, they decided to learn more. It probably went something like this…

“What was that innovation software company again? Oh yeah, SPIGOT.”

Notice the typo there. Or maybe Spigit is better termed the typo.

Anyway, first they tried http://www.spigot.com. But that leads to someone sitting on that domain for quite a while. Confused, they did the next logical thing. They searched on variations of SPIGOT:

  • spigot software
  • spigot idea management
  • spigot innovation management
  • spigot gumbo

Unable to find Spigit, they moved on with their life. Until last week, when the prospect was talking with one of our customers, who mentioned SPIGIT. Ding! The prospect remembered their interest, got the right spelling and we are talking, several months later.

Obviously, this presents something of a problem. How to catch those people actually searching for SPIGIT, but typing SPIGOT? We do maintain Google AdWords covering this. But what about in the search results themselves?

At first blush, two options are apparent. One, use the word SPIGOT on our website. But that would be confusing to visitors. It would look like we don’t know how to spell our own company name, or maintain a typo-infested website. Two, take advantage of those meta tag keywords, adding SPIGOT to them. But Google recently confirmed that those meta tag keywords have no effect on search results. None.

But there was one other way to do it. Why not take advantage of our search engine-indexed blog? Publish a blog post specifically designed to include the misspelled company name, along with additional relevant search terms. That way, there will at least be something in the search results for people honestly trying to find your company.

So I wrote this post, Spigot Innovation and Idea Management Software Platform

The post is intended to let searchers know why it exists, and redirect them to the website home page:

Spigot blog post

I’m no SEO expert – honest, check my Twitter bio! But I figure this may help get the attention of those using SPIGOT to find SPIGIT.

Another use for the company blog.

Crowdsourced or Elite Unit Innovation?

A classic dilemma for companies is determining the best way to foster innovation. There are many good books with different approaches. Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma has influenced a generation’s thinking about innovation. He focuses management and entrepreneurs’ attention on the Big I: disruptive innovation.

One outcome of the popularity of Christensen’s book is the awareness people have that entrenched business practices can inhibit companies’ ability to recognize and address discontinuous innovations from new market entrants. Motorola, for example, is often held up as an example of this. The company continued to develop only analog cell phones even as the digital phones were getting traction. In clinging to analog, which it dominated, it fell far behind in the mobile phone market.

A key practice espoused by Christensen is for companies to tackle discontinuous innovations by creating separate divisions. These divisions have an R&D profile, meaning they are funded without requiring a financial return. They do not have to prove themselves to sales or other parts of the organization. This gives them the room they need to figure out how to approach the impending market shift.

The issue with the popularization of this framework is that it sets up a binary approach to innovation. You’re either addressing disruptive or discontinuous innovations, or you’re executing on yesterday’s business. It’s this dichotomy that obscures the value of innovations that move organizations forward, competing to increase market share and profits.

To that end, let’s examine two ways companies create work structures for innovation.

Integrated or Separate Innovation

The graphic below highlight two very different ways to approach innovation. And that’s a good thing.

Innovation Work Structures

Separate Division: As advised by Clayton Christensen, this approach is best for companies that need to address disruptive innovations. And all companies need to address disruptive innovations.These days, it’s not a matter of if, but when. For fundamental market shifts, too much is invested in the current operations for companies to address changes. Freeing a group of people from these constraints is critical, if the corporate culture is not open to big-bet innovations.

A couple examples of interest here. First, let’s go back to Motorola. Yes, the company muffed it badly on the transition from analog to digital. But there was something that it did right years before. Motorola researcher Jim Mikulski could see in the 1960s that existing cellular technology was insufficient for the emerging uses of the mobile technology. He had a new technology to replace it, and asked the head of Motorola’s communications division, John Mitchell to fund its development. Mitchell said “no”,

Arguing that 400MHz technology offered sufficient capacity and met consumer needs. The Communications Division current product line was the market leader, and a new product, which would likely cannibalize the current system, was deemed to be both unnecessary and potentially harmful to this business line.

So Mikulski found refuge in Motorola’s Corporate Research Laboratory. He worked on the new technology there, receiving funding for its development. When his view of the coming changes proved to be true, Motorola was ready with its new technology.

In other words, he addressed innovation that affected the communications division in a completely separate division.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has programmatically set up a separate division for innovation. The Microsoft Research group works on ideas that may never have commercial appeal. But some of their work has resulted in product features and direction for its new Natal gaming system, its Bing search engine, and an upcoming release of Outlook email.

They have a separate division, but the innovations arguably are of the sustaining variety, not disruptive.

Integrated into Daily Work: In this work structure, everyone is involved in innovation. The company sets expectations, and encourages employees’ to share ideas. Done right, this is in-the-flow stuff. Employees are encountering issues to be addressed daily, and they’re hearing new customer feedback all the time. They are well-positioned to come up with innovative solutions and products, if senior management makes that a priority.

Whirlpool is a good example of this. In 1999, then-CEO David R. Whitwam made the determination that Whirlpool needed to stop competing on price, and make innovation its central strategy. Fast forward to today, and the results have been stellar. Whirlpool has escaped competing as a commodity vendor, with $4 billion in revenue (21% of total sales) generated from its innovation efforts. Are they satisfied? No. CEO Jeff Fettig stated that while participation in innovation from 5,000 employees is good, he’s looking to increase it to 15,000.

That’s integrating innovation into employees’ daily work for sustaining innovation. In this case, sustaining innovation has been the source of growth and profits.

Another company where innovation is part of everyday work is 3M. The company is legendary for its innovation. And clearly, the encouragement of all employees to be part of innovation has taken hold. For instance, there was this story recently in Fast Company:

3M told a great innovation story at the ARF annual conference about a new product that started with a complaint call into customer care. The representative did his own research online, came up with a solution, filmed a video that he put on YouTube and re-contacted the customer to see if that is what he was looking for.

The sheer volume of ideas that employees have to improve companies’ existing businesses puts a premium on crowdsourcing ideas. And inevitably, some of that culture and the ideas emerging from sustaining innovation will relate to discontinuous or disruptive innovations.

Why Not Do Both?

Google is a good example of a company that does both. It’s 20% time for employees to devote to innovation is the stuff of business legend. And according to the company, half of its new products result from this employee time.

But then look at Google Wave. This project was done beyond 20% time. It was actually a completely separate project developed by a 5-person “startup” team in Australia, far from the company’s Mountain View, CA headquarters. Google Wave is transformative, and will likely usher new design principles into a host of software applications.

Google is a good example of an innovation-led company. They mix the elite unit approach to innovation with the everyday encouragement for employees to innovate.

There’s not this dichotomy of “all disruptive/discontinuous innovation, or you’re just falling behind”. Rather, it’s a smart blend of the strategies.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter, and I’m a Senior Consultant with HYPE Innovation.

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