Bloglist

This page contains all my blogs from the whole semester. It is sorted in reverse order of the date that the blog entry was created.


Search Interface

by dylanbdylanb (30 Nov 2008 20:54; last edited on 01 Dec 2008 02:15)

Because of my experience with web design I was very interested to see some of the interfaces that these other search tools used. A lot of tools use Google results or some other search engines results but where they excel is in the way they display data. Often times this can be most important and at the very least very cool.

Search Me

The first I found intriguing was SearchMe. SearchMe uses the "cover flow" look that has made its way just about everyone on the internet. I have actually used a cover flow interface before. I thought it was interesting in this regard because it was pictures but I don't think it works very well for Search Me. With SearchMe I found that the thumbnails used in the cover flow were often out dated and hard to see, making them relatively worthless. This coupled with lackluster search results make SearchMe basically a cool looking gadget rather than a worthwhile search tool.

Cool Iris

Cool Iris is definitely cool but does it end up in the same boat as SearchMe? Little substance and lots of pretty bells and whistles? I think it does to an extent but not as much. The idea behind Cool Iris is different, it's a browser plugin that highlights exploring. If you type in a topic you are likely to find something that you may not be looking for but that's cool. That is really the point behind Cool Iris. I don't think it's worth a browser plugin spot as I'm not really a fan of browser plugins to begin with except for the absolutely necessary. But it's definitely a cool looking tool that has a revolutionary interface.

Viewzi

Viewzi is one of my favorite tools just because of all the different views it supplies. These are all beautiful interfaces and rely on other technology. It's basically a viewer for all the different search engines, some are very revolutionary unique ideas. I think Viewzi is a perfect example of a site mixing just enough different technology. In many regards Viewzi is just a playground for interface design tests and I'm sure they collect data on which is best.

The Tag Cloud

One internet phenomenon that I'm not a fan of is the "tag cloud". I noticed a lot of searches (Quintara, Search Cloud, and Sense Bot) used the tag cloud and I wasn't a fan of these services. The idea is for free flowing thought but I just don't think they are efficient for the way I think.

Where Does Search Go Next?

With all these unique interfaces the question is does one of them catch on in the main stream. Looking at some innovative web design let's anyone see that there are thousands of designers who have brilliant ideas that could be applied to search. The issue is finding something that is both unique and also very functional.

I think the next wave of useful search engine interfaces could be for specialized fields. With general results that can span into any category it's hard to create a specific interface. If you are just searching for places, or people, or athletes or something like that it makes a lot more sense to have a customized interface because results are going to have similar formats. This is why I think a lot of "big" search engines don't have anything more distinguished about their results. However you can kind of see Google going in this direction with their mini results for things like weather.

It's unlikely that Google will ever experiment with a dramatic new interface but I could see a trailing competitor like Ask or Live experimenting with things like this as some kind of last ditch effort. The one thing that I think probably holds a lot of these big companies back from experimenting with interface design is the fact that a lot of the more complicated designs are not nearly as accessible. There techniques implemented on many websites that cater toward people with disabilities and allow sites to be browsed in different browsers that can translate pages a whole new way. When you start adding lots of graphics and complicated javascripts required to make a pretty interface web accessibility is usually the first thing to go.


YouTube, Podcasts, and More

by dylanbdylanb (24 Nov 2008 05:50; last edited on 24 Nov 2008 06:26)

YouTube is a cultural phenomenon, the service that revolutionized video search technologies on the internet. But I was not sure how good of a research tool it was. Running a blog I end up using video search quite a bit and my first instinct is always to goto YouTube first. This is of course natural because it's the biggest but I've had lots of success with other tools.

However for my research project I felt like I needed a different angle than YouTube. YouTube in my mind is generally more of an entertainment based collection of videos. While of course there are some videos that are educational for the most part it's main goal is entertainment. I didn't expect to find much about venture capital on YouTube. One thing I did find somewhat useful on YouTube were elevator pitches and videos about making elevator pitches. This is one of the most visual things involved with my topic so I expected the best results.

Because I couldn't think of many other videos that I would be able to find relating to my topic, or even what type of video to look for I decided I would look in another direction. An area that I have always been interested in learning more about more were podcasts. I have always heard podcasts mentioned and used them occasionally just to listen to radio recordings or interviews but had never really looked into them. I thought that podcasts might be a great place to look for some substantial content more so than just a video.

I found a couple of intriguing results from using a couple of the podcast tools from class.

My favorite tool was Pod-o-matic - with Pod-o-Matic I found a couple interesting results but there was also a lot of junk. The most interesting podcast I found on pod o matic was about connecting entrepreneurs and investors. I am a huge proponent of blogs and giving individual people a voice but I feel like a lot of these podcast tools have really been swamped with advertising-style podcasts and it's just hard to get through the mess of garbage that can sometimes result. And frankly there are just some people who don't need to be heard all over the internet.

I also found some interesting results on VideoSurf including Donald Trump's thoughts on entrepreneurs. VideoSurf is really the favorite tool I found in this lecture, it just has a very nice search interface that isn't found on most video search tools. In a field that is starting to get very saturated I think VideoSurf definitely has a chance at success.

Overall I think multimedia search is still limited in a lot of ways. It is great to send around funny videos, political ads, or other viral content but I just don't think it has become a good enough tool for educational or even just informational use. I think a lot of this is because the first people to push videos on the internet ended up being the entertainment industry because it was so vital for their use. Having ran a website that used videos before the broadband era really started to become so widespread it's remarkable how much easier video sharing on the internet has gotten since the early 2000s when streaming video was something only the biggest of websites could perform. I think the online multimedia industry will continue to grow but also continue to hit snags for copyright and other issues. Eventually it will be possible to stream hi def video easily over the internet in a way that will probably make it worthless to even have hard copies of media.


Application Of Custom Search

by dylanbdylanb (05 Nov 2008 15:53; last edited on 05 Nov 2008 16:00)

The concept of custom search is not all together foreign to me but the ideas that we talked about in class are very new. I had been aware of the basic structure of using custom search on personal web pages as a search engine from Google. This saves bandwidth and processor strain and allows the best search interface, I would say a majority of web pages that have search functions and a large number of pages incorporate Google custom search. Google is the choice for most because it is the biggest but also allows full integration with a website and AdSense placement to make search profitable.

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However services like Topicle, Swicki, and Rollyo showed me an entirely new aspect of custom search. The one that caught my attention the most was Topicle, it's a simple enough concept and I think the execution is done very well.

I found a search called "Web Start Up Blogs" that searches many relevant sites for my project topic. Some sites I had been using in my project are there, but also some that I hadn't. The best part of Topicle and the thing that makes it so much more powerful is that it is basically an open canvas of searches. Any user can rate, add, and subtract websites to each search.

This Web 2.0 idea of collaboration on the internet is the future of the internet and is expanding to all facets of the internet (including Obama's Web 2.0 Campaign). I look at these custom search tools just like Wikipedia or Digg and realize that together, people can combine to make the internet a smaller and much more targeted sphere.

The other thing about Topicle is that the search engine I tried works very very well. Looking for a couple companies I had been investigating I got quality results and it seemed to just work. The only issue I have is with the search where it only has an ajax drop down and you cant actually hit enter and search.

Overall Topicle is a great tool, and the only thing I worry about is that with a saturated market it won't survive. I also worry that it's simplicity (which is important in search - Look at Google vs Yahoo) is another driving force in it's success.


Tag Based Sites & Specific Topics

by dylanbdylanb (29 Oct 2008 03:14; last edited on 16 Nov 2008 18:54)

The huge influx of tag based sites has effected my website, UMHoops.com, and also has a lot of effects on the industry I'm investigation as well as being helpful in finding new information my project. Tag based sites fall very much in line with the web 2.0 and social networking revolution that is the back bone of the current age of internet start ups.

When I write a blog entry on my real blog and I think it is an especially good one, or one I want to get the word out about I will often send it to digg and other news sites. My site like many also has a "Share This" option which allows the user to submit it to many different social tag based sites. While I do this frequently, I have had very few posts actually generate much traffic from digg.

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There are two of these sites which we didn't talk about in class that play a big part in my website. They are both "digg type" sites that are targeted toward sports. These sites are YardBarker and BallHype. YardBarker is the more successful of the 2 and actually just acquired $6 million dollars in funding. As we saw in class the list of these sites is very large and a surprising number of them are successful. Personally I was shocked to see so many similar sites have relative success. YardBarker clocks in around Slashdot in terms of size according to Quantcast numbers (YB & SD). This is pretty respectable for a sports targeted website.

The intriguing part of YardBarker is that they launched their own advertising network. This is a genius way of bringing two services together. Yardbarker relies on having user submitted content from independent sports blogs for the most part. By offering advertising deals with these blogs and requiring the independent bloggers to autosubmit their articles YardBarker makes money off the blogosphere and also pushes their content system.

So is the future in tag based sites generic sites or targeted sites? Clearly digg is the category leader and targeted sites will never have the type of traffic that digg has. However I look at some of these targeted sites (YardBarker is only an example of one such site) and I think they might be better if you know what your looking for. The top headlines on digg from the sports category (link) are all from national main stream media publications while the top headlines on YardBarker (link) are mostly from blogs and independent resources.

Because of the focus of this class on finding resources on the internet, targeted social tagging sites provide a very good alternative for extra information. They also give an inherent ranking of quality that allows you to get the best alternative resources. If there is a site like YardBarker for a specific topic it's probably worth checking out. One thing I can't help but notice is that there was talk about Google adding a thumbs up/thumbs down for results, essential turning into digg-style format.


The Deep Web

by dylanbdylanb (13 Oct 2008 12:15; last edited on 16 Nov 2008 18:54)

The Deep web is untapped by most people on the internet who only use Google. Of course Google Scholar does a little bit to help unleash this to the world but in my opinion it's just not good enough. Because of the discrepancies and irregularities we talked about with Google Scholar it might not be the most consistent tool but there is still a wealth of information and the "Google-style" of a massive project.

My Results

When attempting to search for my term project on other deep web services I had few results. Turbo10 was not very effective (can't get the query results to link) and came up with random links and nothing very useful. BNet on the other hand came up with some useful information and seems to be a much better tool. Searching on Scirus was a little better than Turbo10 but still my results were filled with sidebars not very well connected to my topic.

I think that the quality of resources available on the Deep Web will vary considerably by term paper subject. An industry like venture capital and web startups will be much harder to find significant information on because it is such a fast moving and new market. It's inherent connection with the internet makes blogs and other online information sources the natural fit for information.

Conclusion

I think the Deep Web is actually one of the things that could be most improved on the internet, and even though Google Scholar is an attempt, it still has miles to go. The restrictions of subscriber content will keep the internet from truly being an open market for information for a while yet and I don't see this going away. With things like DRM coming up, it is imaginable that it will only get worse. There are definitely two parties: those pushing for freedom of all information and those pushing for more and more content restriction on anything from music to articles to movies.


Politics In Search

by dylanbdylanb (08 Oct 2008 04:28; last edited on 08 Oct 2008 16:04)

I recently saw when browsing my RSS reader, an article about "Keating Economics" being one of the top terms on Google the day the Obama campaign released the information about McCain's connection to the Keating Five. I was a little surprised that this was one of the top terms on Google so I wondered what else the search industry was doing involving the presidential campaigns.

Trends

First I took a look at the search trends for some of the candidates. (There is also Google Election trends which breaks things down even more.)

Barack Obama

John McCain

Comparison of all four candidates

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McCain - blue, Obama - red, Palin - orange, Biden - green

Palin surprisingly has the largest single day of any of the candidates, which is somewhat expected because she went from an unknown (as seen by her trend line) to a VP candidate. Campaigns are having to deal with the Internet more than ever before and this is a new phenomenon. As we have studied, people go to the internet first for information. The campaigns have to do everything they can to optimize search results and make sure that potential voters find the information they want them to.

What Else?

Yahoo! has also put together a dashboard for all political information. This dashboard breaks down the top searches, top news stories and blogs, and latest polling results. This is a very good example of how companies like Yahoo and Google have so much data that they can manipulate it into little side projects like this very easily. I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo set up some kind of dashboard during other national (and international) stories like the Olympics.

Conclusion

Search engines are playing a very large role in this years Presidential Race and I feel that this is just a reminder of the business potential of search engines because they are first and foremost big business. Politics is a huge issue in the blogosphere, on search engines, and I even saw a site that let you type in any issue and provided results from the internet about each candidates position. Sites like Politico are being started as politics only websites and it appears that Google, Yahoo, and the internet play as big of a role as anything else in this years Presidential election. Search engines are just the tip of the iceberg: YouTube, Facebook and of course internet donations are all playing a role.


News Search

by dylanbdylanb (06 Oct 2008 04:14; last edited on 16 Nov 2008 18:54)

The purpose of news search tools is slightly different than the purpose of normal search engines. In a typical web search the user is probably looking for the most accurate content that is precise to their search. With news search, I feel that it might be worth it to lose some precision in the search to insure the latest updates as they happen. All too often news that is only hours or even minutes old is not relevant anymore. The normal means for a search engine (robot every x hours) just doesn't work for news. In a sense the way I think of Google (and other) News Searches is that they are large RSS mashups from the most trusted news source. Even if an iReport on CNN.com can still cause waves in the stock market.

A random idea of how much the internet has grown today, including news forms is Google's 10th anniversary search tool that lets you do a 2001 Google search. To compare to one of the huge issues today, a search for this years presidential candidates brings up 158,000 results for John McCain, 671 for Barack Obama, and 0 for Sarah Palin.

In our exercises we looked mostly at Yahoo, Google, and Altavista tools, I found that I like Yahoo for basic news the best because it is in a format that is easy to read when looking for general news. It's just like browsing an online newspaper, I think Google's interface is too hectic and spread out. Yahoo News also does a better job with media (photos and videos) which I think is important for people looking for the latest and greatest content as well.

One aspect of the Google News Search that I love though is the timeline. Interestingly Google just added the timeline feature to their revamped Google Blogs search. At some point I wouldn't be surprised to see Google Blogs and Google News integrate some how, this is the direction the internet is going with the power of new media. With Google starting to establish an authority system like Technorati (who must be nervous about Google's changes) the information that can be gained in the blogosphere is very complimentary to the news search. Why not have an opinions from the blogosphere link under each story?

Overall I think I will focus mostly on Google News for specific searches and Yahoo News for broad searches but I am most excited about the upcoming lecture about news alerts because I have just started using Google Alerts and they are great for getting news and information ASAP (from web, news, blogs and all searches).


Bloglines vs. Google Reader

by dylanbdylanb (30 Sep 2008 01:39; last edited on 30 Sep 2008 04:07)

I have used RSS feeds extensively in the last year or so since I started my own blog. The value of RSS feeds to track a subject extensively day in and day out is unbelievable. There are many solutions to keep track of RSS feeds, the two most popular are Bloglines and Google Reader. I am an avid Google Reader user.

Marketshare

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The first thing I wanted to do was see if more people were using Bloglines or Google Reader. I found this article from Hitwise tracking the market share (graph to the left). The article also had another chart, about where users are headed from their Google Reader page. Google seems to have a bigger share of the News and Media section. This is somewhat surprising because I feel that would be the biggest use of these readers and they are still trailing blog lines.

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The next thing I checked was what users that subscribe to my blog's RSS feed use to get their RSS. Using a tool called FeedBurner I can get statistics on subscribers to my RSS feed and also offer e-mail updates through the RSS feed.

Here is the pie chart of RSS readers on my blog:

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I find it interesting that the majority of my readers don't even use an RSS reader at all, they are just getting whatever I write delivered straight to their inbox. However it turns out that the majority of my users who do use an RSS reader are using Google Reader (or iGoogle, both run on the Google Feedfetcher technology). Software solutions like Firefox and Windows/IE make up another chunk, while Bloglines is only at 3%. We didn't talk about NetVibes much in class but it is apparently quite popular as the customizable home page accounts for 8% of my subscribers.

So what does all this data mean? It means there are lot's of quality RSS tools out there and finding the right one for you is key.

Comparing Features

So which is better? I am torn, so I am going to goto a pros and cons of each.

Google Reader

  • Off-line Reader (new)
  • Keyboard Shortcuts
  • More lightweight feed discovery — search for feeds easier than searching for articles. I like this format much better because I can find websites I like and then follow them. It seems to "just work" better than Bloglines discovery method.
  • Starred Items — I also like this system better than Bloglines "keep as unread" option for keeping track of things you want to go back to.

Bloglines

  • Playlists — Very cool feature, allows you to make pages with headlines from selected feeds.
  • Keyboard short cuts - Also has keyboard short cuts but not nearly as snappy with the "j" jump button between articles like Google Reader.
  • BETA! Upgrades VERY old frames look of old version. 3 pane view with headlines and content like Outlook for example.
  • Bloglines Logo logs you out. This drives me crazy, I typically click a logo to go back to some sort of home screen, not get all together kicked out of the system. This is fixed in the beta!

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think I will stick to Google Reader, at least until the Bloglines Beta is finalized. This is probably a large matter of personal preference and maybe I am just Google-person (as I write this in Google Chrome). But Google even does the little things like keep track of what blogs I read and give me a whole data sheet of trends.


My First Test Blog

by dylanbdylanb (10 Sep 2008 16:18; last edited on 10 Sep 2008 16:18)

This is my first test blog….

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