Archive for the 'social' Category

Why I Like Adobe’s Purchase of Omniture

Ok, I know the folks at Adobe (yeah the Photoshop people) and Omniture (web analytics and optimization geeks) have been waiting for me to pronounce on their deal.  After mulling it over a bit, I’ve decided that it is good.

Judging from the twitter chatter, some found it perplexing.  And apparently the market didn’t much like it either.

I like it because it recognizes that the creation of web content should be done hand in hand with activities like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and the tools used to the analyze and measure the effectiveness of a web-site.  In today’s world, there are those who create websites and those who do SEO and SEM – and they are often blissfully unaware of each other.  That’s unfortunate given that the whole point of a website is to engage people and accomplish some commercial goal.

For a long time, the technical hurdles associated with the mechanics of creating a website have dominated the equation.  But that continues to get easier – as it should.  So rather than focus on the mechanics, you can naturally expect people to start thinking more about how to use a website as a truly effective tool.  Which should lead you to think about how you are going to structure and evaluate the content.

So, I can see Adobe creating entire new classes of tools where the very way you think about and create web pages becomes much more oriented towards optimizing and measuring the content.  For example, you might have a tool where the first thing you do for a new page is define the ‘objective’ for it (i.e. this page is intended to get people to register for the site).   From this objective you would then have tools that would advise you on ‘best practices’ for achieving it.  You would design the page from the get go to evaluate several alternatives.  The code needed to manage this would just disappear in to the woodwork.  The tools required to manage the revision of various content elements are part of the tool-set.

And there is potentially a very nice network effect.  The more people use your tools to create pages and analyze them the more data you (can potentially) collect on what works and what doesn’t.  This means you can do a better job of pro-actively advising people on what they should and shouldn’t do.  This allows the creative people to spend more time exploring new things that might work rather than wasting their time on things that are pretty unlikely to work.

Think of it as ‘objective driven design’.  I’m gonna let Adobe use that phrase if they like.

Of course, all that’s easy when you say it fast.  And difficult to execute in practice.  And I’ve glossed over at least one really important point.  What one means by an ‘effective’ web-site is a moving target.  Changes like social media and real-time media – not to mention changes in what people expect or want – mean that the very definition of ‘well designed’ is always shifting.

But that just makes it an interesting problem worth tackling.  Time will tell.


Thinking holistically about local search

Emerging mobile and social applications are changing the way we find local information from a search paradigm to a recommendation paradigm.  Just this week we saw the announcement of several new products promoting this shift – which Greg Sterling reflects on in this post.   And I agree with Greg that in some ways we have almost come full circle:

The underlying consumer behavior is simply asking for word of mouth recommendations and is as “old as the hills.” But the ability to efficiently ask many people for advice or a local business referral at once online is new. Reviews were step one; the combination of quasi-real time answers and social networks is an evolution of that phenomenon.

We’re seeing many different approaches to capturing and sharing opinions — and people vigorously debating the merits of these approaches.  Is it better to have lengthy, insightful reviews or should you just have a simple rating or voting system so you get more participation?  Can you just ask your friends?  Is an answer format better than a review format?

It’s going to be great to see how it all evolves – exciting times!

I believe a holistic and inclusive approach will be needed.  Perhaps the greatest challenge in local information is to achieve sufficient depth and breadth to provide truly meaningful recommendations at the local level.  A modest sized city has tens of thousands of businesses.  This means you need millions of points of view in order to fairly represent the different needs and preferences of consumers.  Simply put:  you need active participation from a large population of local users.

This has several practical implications:

  1. You need to accommodate the different ways users want to interact with local information, but still be able to aggregate this information in meaningful ways.
  2. We can’t afford to ignore the implicit signals provided by all users.  These signals include the things they search for, the maps they request and the businesses they call.  Research on movie recommendations published by participants in the Netflix Prize clearly shows that this kind of implicit data is critical to creating high quality recommendations.
  3. A small percentage of participants will create the majority of the explicit opinions – the silent majority still needs a way to find and evaluate opinions that are consistent with their preferences.  We won’t all have 1000+ friends to ask.


Netflix Prize has lessons for local search.
Forget search: local is a recommendation problem.

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