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In the Future We’ll All Have Online Reputation Scores

In a recent interview with EMC’s Stu Miniman about the future of the web, I predicted that in 20 years, we’ll all have online reputation scores. Little badges, numbers that communicate our level of authority, this sort of thing. And these reputations will have tangible impact.

Three different trends come together at some point in the future to make this happen. These trends have been underway for a while, but come together at some tipping point in the years ahead. Here’s a visualization of the trends:

It’s helpful to discuss each one, in the context of online reputations.

Rate performance of businesses

eBay, which went public back in 1998, played an important role in socializing the concept of people providing online ratings for online sellers. After we receive our purchase, we rate the seller. The collective wisdom identifies top sellers. Got your eye in that Donkey Kong game? Who are you most likely to trust…?

Amazon picked up on this, once it introduced third party sellers into the mix. You can see the percentage of positive ratings for the different sellers. Personally, I have paid premiums (i.e. higher prices) for the assurance that comes from a higher rated seller.

Yelp has taken this concept of rating a seller, and applied to offline consumer experiences. Want to get a burrito in San Francisco? You’re likely to go with the highest rated restaurants.

These ratings make up for our lack of information about various providers of services. One could do a lot of online research, and asking friends, before buying. But these ratings do quite well as shorthand ways of assessing quality. They’ve made it easy to transact, without knowing someone ahead of time.

The rating ethos is expanding. On Facebook, you can ‘like’ people’s entries. We ‘love’ music on Last.fm. We ‘favorite’ tweets. We ‘digg’ and ‘buzz up’ stories. Implicitly, we provide ratings when we share content via different social networks. Online engagement allows for this.

Migration of transparent work and information online

I found this recent Kaiser Family Foundation study fascinating. The amount of time kids spend online – smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device – is now at an all-time high. There’s no denying this: future workers are going to be more accustomed to online engagement and information-seeking than any generation before. It’s their lifestyle:

More generally, an important distinction from the web of the 1990s and early 2000s is that we aren’t just reading and transacting. Individuals are providing the content. More every day, in fact. We have transferred some of the engagement and contributions from the offline world online. Actually, we’re probably creating more content than we ever have,

For workers, the growth of Enterprise 2.0 continues. A key outcome of that? More and more work is making its way online. When it’s available there, and not just in a Word document on the hard drive or email in an inbox, it’s findable and usable by everyone.Your colleagues know quite well what the quality of your work and contributions are.

Do you think all of this stops, and we go back to message-relaying marathoners, smoke signals and carrier pigeons? No. Enterprise 2.0 and social media will continue their growth apace. And increasingly, this time spent online is through social media.

More and more people will be publishing their work, their ideas, their knowledge, their conversational bits, their creativity…online. It’s just going to keep increasing.

Rely on social media for information

An emerging trend is the transition of where we seek information. Remember libraries, magazines and microfiche? Then the 1.0 websites where we got information? Then the portals that aggregated information from major media sites? Then search augmented all this information consumption?

Well, the next wave is to rely on our social connections to deliver interesting, relevant information to us. As was famously said by a college student in 2008:

If the news is important, it will find me.

A recent Nielsen study confirms this growing tendency to use social media as a first stop to find information:

Admittedly, the leading social sites of today – blogs, Facebook, Twitter – have a ways to go before they become a large percentage of the population’s first choice. And it’d help if Twitter could get their search working further back than a week or two.

But this survey and anecdotal evidence points toward an increased reliance on others to provide information to us.

Putting this all together

It’s that last trend, still early in its cycle, that really points toward the development of formal, online reputations. When we started transacting online with complete strangers or small businesses we never knew, we needed a basis for understanding their credibility. It turns out, crowdsourced ratings are excellent indicators of quality. It also causes small businesses to be aware of the quality of their products and services.

In the years ahead, expect increased usage of social media for getting information and sourcing people, products and services. As an example, research firm IDC just released these survey results:

57% of U.S. workers use social media for business purposes at least once per week. The number one reason cited by U.S. workers for using social tools for business purposes was to acquire knowledge and ask questions from a community.

As reliance on people for information increases, expect an increased need for knowing which strangers provide the top quality information. Note I said “strangers” there. One thing we will continue to do is to rely on our “friends” (social media sense of the word) for ongoing daily information. The people we connect with on the various social sites.

But that’s the only way we will get information. Or make decisions. Great case in point? Google’s real-time search results:

If innovation is the focus of your work, wouldn’t you want to be include in those Google results? Here’s the thing. Google doesn’t just put any old tweet or other form of real-time content in there. As Google’s Amit Singhal stated:

“You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers,” his tweet is deemed valuable because his followers are themselves followed widely, Singhal says. It is “definitely, definitely” more than a popularity contest, he adds.

Note his words: “You earn reputation“.

PR agency Edelman created a ranking algorithm called Tweetlevel, which analyzes people on the basis of influence, popularity, engagement and trust. Tweetlevel was recently used to create a list of the top analysts on Twitter. As the author of that post noted, one purpose for the list was to answer the question: “Should they spend their limited time interacting with analysts via twitter?” Presumably if you’re an analyst in the Top 50, ‘yes’.

Again, reputation being used for a defined purpose.

Ross Dawson wrote a good piece about the changes coming due to the increasing visibility of “people’s actions and character”. He notes the impact of reputation on seeking professionals for work:

Many professionals will be greatly impacted by these shifts. The search for professional advice is often still highly unstructured, based on anecdotal recommendations or simple searches. As importantly, clients of large professional firms may start to be more selective on who they wish to work with at the firm, creating a more streamlined meritocracy.

The mechanisms for measuring professional reputation are still very crude, yet over the coming decade we can expect to see substantial changes in how professionals are found. This will impact many facets of the industry.

And Bertrand Dupperin sees a similar dynamic playing out internally:

Use internal social networks to build a kind of marketplace that would put work capacity and competence on a given subject in relation with needs and allow those who can apply for an assignment instead of blind assignments to those who can’t.

In a world where individuals emerge as important sources of information, products and services, people will need a way to break through the limited knowledge they’ll have on any one person. Look for online reputations to emerge as a way to fill that gap.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 011510

From the home office at 11:35 pm weeknights, where I’ll be sitting in the Tonight Show chair after the Winter Olympics…

#1: Defining Social Business http://bit.ly/6pfbpy by @stoweboyd #e20

#2: RT @time Foursquare’s Twist on Facebook: A Reward for Checking In – TIME http://tinyurl.com/yce6jld

#3: One thing we’ll see more in next 20 years: online reputations. Not just businesses, but people. Formalized and applied to web experience.

#4: Technology Review: How Google Ranks Tweets #reputation http://post.ly/IRl1

#5: RT @HelenWalters “Innovation is killed with the two deadliest words in business: Prove it.” @rotmanschool‘s Roger Martin: http://bit.ly/862a3t

#6: RT @VenessaMiemis What is Design Thinking, Really? http://bit.ly/6fpmOZ #metathink #designthinking #innovation > Detailed post

#7: Reading ‘Design Driven Innovation’ by Verganti. Quote: “Design should anticipate a need, proposing a vision.” #innovation

#8: RT @GeorgeDearing Best Headline Ever. [ryankuder's posterous] http://ff.im/-eaux4 > Funny WaPo headline writers #starwars

#9: This wasn’t too predictable, eh? “What Boyfriends and Girlfriends Search for on Google” http://bit.ly/7orLZv

#10: Ethics of test preparations–for kindergarten http://bit.ly/6TG7Co > Man, I missed out on this for my 5 1/2 son!

Three Designs for Presenting Tweets in Search Results

In a recent post, I described some ways in which tweets should be ranked in search results. A good follow-on question is

How should tweets be presented in search results?

It’s an interesting question – how exactly would you want to see tweets in your Google and Bing search results? And it’s an important question, as searches are critical bases for discovering information and huge drivers of traffic.

Tweets are different from web pages. They are more ephemeral, but also much more current. They’re short nature means we can consume them much more quickly than fuller web pages. In many ways, their brevity reduces their “burden of interestingness”. Read, move on. Read, move on. Read, move on.

Tweets are small nuggets of insight, and pointers to good content. Web pages are the foundational information components. The value of the two digital forms is different. Thus, it makes sense to consider options for presenting these different types of information to people.

Three different designs for presenting tweets in Google and Bing search results come to mind:

  • Separate tweets-only search page
  • Tweets displayed in a box on the same page with web pages
  • Tweets integrated into the overall search results

Let’s take a look at the options. For added context, I’ve included appropriate musical selections.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve set up a poll asking which approach you’d prefer.

Tweets-only search results

Musical theme: Gotta keep ‘em separated.

This is the Bing way. A separate URL for tweets. It’s an acknowledgment that tweets really are different from web pages. The graphic below conceptualizes this approach, with a search on ‘Madrid’:

The graphic above puts tweets searches more in line with overall searches. Right now Bing has no link to tweet searches on its home page. You just have to know the URL exists. Of course, the Microsoft Bing team is working on incorporating the firehose into its search experience, so that may change.

Positives

  • Dedicated page allows for much more creativity with presenting tweets, as Bing has shown
  • Visible link/tab keeps tweet searches more in-the-flow of searchers’ actions
  • Users could easily toggle between the tabs for different types of information
  • Minimizes risk of disruption to current “golden egg” of web searches

Negatives

  • Forces an extra step to see potentially relevant information – click the tweets tab
  • Somewhat diminishes the awareness of tweets’ real-time, up-to-date nature by using same tab structure applied to more static web pages

Tweets in same-page box

Musical theme: Man in the box.

The presentation of real-time tweets on the same page is something Google is experimenting with currently. The philosophy here is that you’re looking for multiple types of information in a search. Google already displays web page links, images, YouTube videos, maps, PDFs and other types of content. Tweets are just another type of content.

Something I’d like to see is a separate box of the tweets on the search results page, as shown below:

This design effectively distinguishes tweets from other types of content, while preserving the “all information on one page” philosophy. This is important for Google and Bing advertising, making the search results page even more engaging.

Open question: what’s better for ad click volumes? Multiple pages of different content (e.g. separate tabs described previously)? Or a single page with more engaging content?

Aside from the information aspect of tweets, there is also a people aspect. Tweets are as much about the person as they are the content. The separate presentation of tweets distinguishes them from web pages, PDFs, videos and the like.

Positives

  • Relevant, up-to-date content improves value of searches
  • In-the-flow of existing search behavior
  • Real-time nature is engaging
  • Find people as well as content

Negatives

  • Smaller space constrains presentation options
  • Potential for a too-crowded visual presentation

Because of the volume of searches run through Google and Bing, there will be a premium on ensuring the quality of the tweets presented. This is important regardless, but even more so here with the number of times people will see the tweets. See How Should Tweets Be Ranked in Search Engine Results? for thoughts on how to do this.

Tweets integrated with overall search results

Musical theme: Happy Together

There is a third design option. Why not put the tweets right in the mix of overall search results? Treat them less as exotic new forms of content, and more as just another type for searchers to click on. The graphic below conceptualizes this:

A tweet is just another URL that can point searchers to relevant content. The challenge is that Google and Bing need to alter their ranking algorithms to allow tweets to be served up high in search results. Something like a pagerank for the twitter account itself. If it has relevant content and a high “Twitter pagerank”, it gets served up higher in the search results.

Positives

  • Searchers get tweets in a highly familiar way
  • Minimizes risk of disruption to current “golden egg” of web searches

Negatives

  • Undermines the fresh, up-to-date nature of tweets
  • Will limit presentation of relevant tweets due to inadequate “Twitter pagerank”
  • Reduces the people aspect of the tweets
  • Lack of real-time flow diminishes engagement of the results page

Of course, tweets are served up in search results today. But that generally happens with very specific multi-word searches that match the tweet, or including the word “twitter” in the search. The design above brings tweets more fully into the pantheon of content, displaying them highly in search results for basic keywords.

I imagine smart folks can come up with other designs for displaying tweets. Leave a comment on these three or any other designs you think might be interesting.

Also, take a second and vote in the poll below. I’m curious what people think about the different possibilities for displaying tweets.

Thanks.

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.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 121809

From the home office in Washington D.C., where I’m racing home from the global warming summit in Copenhagen to beat the icy cold snow storm…

#1: I’m on @paidcontent this week, discussing the ranking & presentation of tweets in search engines: http://bit.ly/6vcIGj

#2: If You Can’t Innovate Across Silos, Don’t Expect To Succeed w/ Open Innovation http://bit.ly/8GPtIp by @lindegaard #e20 #innovation

#3: RT @sengseng Must read by @CliveThompson in @Wired about the power & benefits of daydreaming & the idle mind: http://j.mp/1cz6n4

#4: RT @dhinchcliffe: Collaborative Innovation through Social Competition: http://bit.ly/57tUdi #innovation #e20 #communities

#5: . @tdavidson Some people just have a knack for “seeing” the good/bad and potential of ideas. Quite valuable. #innovation

#6: How Communities Support Innovative Activities (MIT Sloan) http://post.ly/FBiq

#7: RT @webtechman Enterprise 2.0: The Top Five Faces of 2009 http://bit.ly/7a2dlK #e20 > thanks Daniel, I’m a bush among redwoods there

#8: Thanks @tristanwalker – glad you like the #foursquare as social CRM post. Small business payments/CRM market is ripe for disruption.

#9: RT @Armano: 50 beautiful (and free) icon sets for your next web design http://om.ly/dDED /via @GuyKawasaki

#10: When you’re ready for some holiday cheer, Last.fm music tagged ‘Christmas’ http://bit.ly/5RJSwY

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 111309

From the home office in my watery swimming pool on the moon…

#1: RT @innovate: The 50 Best Inventions of 2009 http://ow.ly/BVB0 #innovation I like #40 Edible Race Car. #9 Tweeting by thinking?

#2: RT @lindegaard: Tough Questions and Great Answers: General Mills Steps Up to the Open Innovation Plate: http://bit.ly/2nEXSv

#3: Microsoft Bing team gets kudos for #innovation. First tweet search, now Wolfram|Alpha integration http://ow.ly/BrHC

#4: Is Twitter Trying to Lure You Back to Twitter.com? http://ow.ly/AfcU by @robdiana > Maybe a way to drive page views for ads?

#5: Regarding new Twitter retweet function, @stoweboyd has some good points about it http://ow.ly/AIl7 Inability to add text is a miss

#6: October was a slow traffic month for the social networks, in a detailed look by @louisgray http://ow.ly/BCgU Facebook still growing

#7: UK Guardian discusses how to deal when your boss is on Twitter (& links to my #cisco fatty blog post f/ March) http://ow.ly/Bkrf

#8: Check out: Driving Adoption is anti-2.0 http://bit.ly/1ksZAr #e2conf > Leave it to @rotkapchen!

#9: Do we create the world just by looking at it? http://bit.ly/1kdTOs “Human body is a just barely adequate measuring device” #quantumphysics

#10: Commentator on NPR this AM criticizes Californians for social liberal/fiscal conservative & not wanting taxes. Western libertarian strain!

Twitter to Clean Up Trending Topic Searches – Is This that Reputation Thing?

On Twitter’s blog, they announced an initiative to clean up the spammy tweets that often appear for trending topics. As described from the post:

Today we’re starting to experiment with improvements to trends that will help you find more relevant tweets. Specifically, we’re working to show higher quality results for trend queries by returning tweets that are more useful.

MG Siegler over on Techcrunch and Jolie O’Dell of ReadWriteWeb wonder how this will be accomplished. My guess? Twitter is starting some sort of reputation score for accounts. The lowest-of-the-low accounts in terms of reputation will get shunted aside.

For background on this reputation thing, see a couple earlier posts on this subject:

Included in that second link is this quote from a Rafe Needleman post in May 2009:

Twitter Search will also get a “reputation” ranking system soon, Jayaram told me. When you do a search on a “trending” topic–a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the Twitter.com sidebar–Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank the search results in part based on that.

Curious to see how this one plays out.

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?

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.

Three Reasons You Need to Be on FriendFeed *Now*

FriendFeed Triple PlayFriendFeed has got to be one of the most innovative companies around these days. It seems every week, it’s hatched something new with its service. That alone makes it worth being there.

Then there’s the interactions. When those are rocking and rolling, it’s a lot of fun. Even a few Likes and comments are worth the experience. Of course, not everyone is engaged enough on the service to fully benefit from that. Which is something I completely understand, by the way.

I’ve got three reasons you should be on FriendFeed now. Not for the conversations. Not for the real-time experience. But three reasons that will be valuable to you personally.

The FriendFeed triple play.

#1: Google Juice

You likely know the background of much of the FriendFeed team – Google. Yeah, these guys know search. Even more importantly, they know something about how Google manages search.

So it comes as no surprise that FriendFeed can rank pretty highly in Google search results. Here’s a favorite example of mine.

Alex Scoble (yes, Robert’s brother) is planning his wedding reception. One candidate location for the reception was the Hillsboro Cultural Arts Center. But the managers of that location were not very flexible in working Alex and his fiance. On FriendFeed, Alex posted about the Hillsboro Cultural Arts Center, with some comments explaining why he was not going to use them. It’s not a flattering portrayal of the Center.

Well, check out what a search on the Center’s name returns: Alex’s FriendFeed entry is the #6 result.

Not something that Center wants in their search results, but a great way for Alex to let others know about his experience with the Center.

FriendFeed’s Google prowess shows most strongly in name search results.

On this FriendFeed discussion, Mark Trapp noted that his FriendFeed account always ranks higher than his personal site. Well, if you run a search on mark trapp, you’ll also see that his FriendFeed account is ranked #1, ahead of some attorney named Mark Trapp. Without FriendFeed, that attorney would own the #1 search result.

And FriendFeed member Brian Chang noted this back in January: “I just discovered that my FriendFeed comes up on the first page of Google search results for my name. I think that’s the first time something of mine has actually done that.” A quick search on brian chang reveals he’s not on the first page, but he’s still there, among a lot of brian chang sites.

FriendFeed shows up #3 on a search of my own name.

#2: Personal Content Database

Let’s assume you participate in more than one social media site. Maybe Twitter, Del.icio.us, blog and Flickr. FriendFeed, of course, lets you pipe all of that into its site. If nothing else, having one place where you can search for all your content easily is reason enough.

Returning to the search pedigree of the FriendFeed team, there’s a really good reason to have your Twitter account piped in. It makes it easy to find your tweets. As Louis Gray noted last week, it’s much easier to find tweets in FriendFeed than it is with Twitter’s search. On FriendFeed, you’ve got an archive of all your tweets. On Twitter, you don’t.

Here’s an example. I’ve tweeted a few times about “friendfeed” and “search”. On Twitter, I get one result when searching my tweets for those words. On FriendFeed, I get many, as I’ve actually written those two words in a number of tweets. See the screen shots below, which show only a portion of the FriendFeed search results:

FriendFeed vs Twitter search

Remember when the bookmarking service Ma.gnolia lost all its users’ data? If you had saved your bookmarks there, you were out of luck. There was no recourse to getting that data out. In a post here, I noted that bookmark service Diigo lets you save to De.licio.us simultaneously. The idea being that you needn’t rely on just one service, in the wake of Ma.gnolia’s data loss.

Well, that same notion of mitigating your risk carries over to FriendFeed as well. I pipe all my Diigo bookmarks into FriendFeed. So now I have my bookmarks in three places: Diigo, Del.icio.us and FriendFeed. And when I need to look up one of my bookmarks, where do I usually search? FriendFeed.

#3: Tracking Web Content about What Interests You

Probably my biggest use case for FriendFeed is as a tracking platform for various topics I care about. I’ve got a room to track Enterprise 2.0, which I augment with following 70+ individuals from that world. I’ve got a room for tracking my company Spigit, its competitors and the innovation management field.

The importance and value of tracking the Web this way is something I’ve discussed here many times. You can visit those prior posts for greater detail on how and why.

But I’ll say this. Whenever I need to get up to speed quickly on something, setting up these FriendFeed Rooms and Lists is one of the first things I do. You’d be amazed at how effective they are. And unlike a lot of social media monitoring programs, FriendFeed doesn’t cost you a thing (although some would pay for these features).

Wrap-Up

Those are three powerful reasons you should be on FriendFeed. Right now. They don’t require you to get in there and apply Likes and comments to entries if that’s not your thing (that’s powerful in its own right, but more the province of social networks). But you will immediately start benefiting from what the service offers.

Know anyone holding out or just unaware of FriendFeed? Send ‘em this post.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 030609

From the home office in Damascus, Syria….

#1: Twitter has another huge growth month in February, per compete.com: http://bit.ly/aJ0p

#2: It always cracks me up when people say Twitter is nothing more than glorified IRC (http://bit.ly/KD3H6). Most people I know never used IRC

#3: A lot of posts like this lately: “Twitter destined to replace Google Search” http://bit.ly/14G7nn Some truth, but overstated.

#4: On Enterprise 2.0: “There is a big difference between an integrated user experience and a suite.” ReadWriteWeb http://bit.ly/6Njb

#5: Flashes of insight cannot be willed, they are spontaneous – Willam Duggan, Strategic Intuition

#6: Visa commercial uses Smashing Pumpkins “Today” as its theme. Visa gains some cool points.

#7 Anyone remember the Nestea Plunge? I have this game with my 4 y.o. son where I catch him falling backwards. Call it the Nestea Plunge.

#8: Just want to note for the record…last night’s ’24′ was great. The show is strong this season.

#9: I miss the plastic bags we’d get from grocery stores here in SF. They were perfect for the little trash cans around the house. #ecoprogress

#10: My 4 y.o. son Harrison is a huge fan of the PBD Kids website http://pbskids.org/ Well done, incl. games with his fave PBS characters.

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