Monday, March 12, 2012

Google Alerts & the Speed of Sound

A few years ago I created the Darwin Awareness Engine to overcome information overload when trying to remain aware about what is going on, but more importantly I wanted to avoid reading content that did not offer value unless it was indicative of something emerging, new or unexpected.   At the time I used RRS feeds and Google Alerts in an effort to stay on top of topics that mattered to me.  I also wanted the information to be fresh, (unlike Google search that is the victim of SEO popularity gangster and old information that is useful but not necessarily timely).

Short of spending an enormous amount of time blog-hopping and searching, using very precise and advanced queries, my options to discovering the unexpected and recent content remained very limited.  Google Alerts appeared to be the only accessible option to entering a topic.   But here is the problem.  Google Alerts are NOT ALERTS.

An Alert is supposed to be heard when something is happening.  That means NOW, not days after.  I did not realized that the internet was limited by conventional laws of physics "Capt'n".  Apparently even a warp-drive could help here.

Now lets' have fun with a concrete example:
  • The speed of sound is approximately one mile in five seconds (768 mph in dry air at temperature of 68 °F)
  • I received my alert on "Awareness Engine" on March 11, 2012 at 9:57am
  • The blog entry it referenced was created on March 7, 2012 at 9:21am
  • It took 4 days, 0 hours, 36 minutes for Google to send me this alert
If this post was read in Boston, the speed of sound would have carried the message around the earth  for 73,728 miles.  That is 3 times the earth circumference before Google Alert discovered it.  So now I have to find a sub-speed-of-sound means of transportation to get this blog to Google for its alert to find it.  What can travel from Boston, MA to Mountain View, CA in 96 hours?  Here are the options:
  • Greyhound 39 mph (A little tho fast for Google Alerts)
  • Whippet 35 mph
  • Jackal 35 mph
  • Mule deer 35 mph
  • Rabbit (domestic) 35 mph
  • Hawkmoth — 33 miles per hour (This is the ideal candidate!) 
  • Giraffe 32 mph 
  • Reindeer 32 mph

Considering this outcome of this highly scientific test, the Hawkmoth appears to be the preferred mode of information transmittal method for Google Alerts!

No wonder why Google is now tapping into social networks to overcome its limitation around real-time search and alerts (read my other blog post for more on this topic).

In contrast, Darwin Ecosystem's customers start by giving us a list of RRS feeds and Google alerts that they use to track what matters to them (80% ends up in the trash can).  No surprise here, and we shared the same pain of wasting time and not being informed in time.  Even worse, not knowing what they don't know, but should know.

Here is where the Darwin Awareness Engine differs.  We dedicate an Awareness Edition to the topic(s) of interest and we let the system fetch information as it happens on the Web through queried RSS search feeds that are exempted of SEO and popularity ranking.  This means that you get the blogs, news and other Web 2.0 content as it is being posted and relates to your topic(s).  Additionally, the Darwin Awareness Engine, offers a REAL alert that not only alerts you when new information comes in, but an alert that is also capable of distinguishing a change in the context since the last time you consulted the system.  Yes, the Darwin Awareness Engine gives you alerts about emerging themes and does not bother you when the same old, same old keeps showing-up.

Friday, March 02, 2012

How the New Social and Highly Targeted Search Results is Limiting Awareness

So you think that page ranking is not good enough?  “Ok” said Google. “Let’s make the information your social network promotes be the new way of search.”  In some circles this is seen as brilliant.  Now you can search and see the world according to those who share similar views and interests.  What?... let me repeat (because this is what is really going on); “Now you can search and see the world according to those who share similar views and interests”.  If you feel comfortable with this, then you are right; it is comfortable.  And this is why it is WRONG!  Can you imagine that the World Wide Web is now becoming YOUR echo chamber.  You and your friends are now singing the same song.  How incestuous is that? Very.  As a matter of fact it is now easier than ever to know what you like, but even more dangerously, keeping you liking what they know you like.  This is a mega marketing machine’s dream come-true.  

The more you consume information that comes from your closed-in social network, the more predictable you are and the less likely you are to be aware of what is happening outside your closed community.  This form of isolation gives you a false sense of safety in numbers, and it is the key recipe for stagnation and loss of discovery.  This means that you are very unlikely going to be aware of new trends outside your own little world.  These are the very same trends and serendipitous discoveries that allows us to innovate and grow.

If you wonder why Google needs +1 so bad, there is an answer:
  1. To overcome their weakening page ranking algorithm because SEO services are constantly preventing the organic elevation of content through self-promotion
  2.  To overcome their inability to improve their search ranking algorithm when newly-created and relevant Web 2.0 content is prevented from being elevated
  3. To seek crowd-based relevance and predictability to improve the targeted ad placement business mode
  4. To compete with a non-search engine company that knows more than Google does about its users; Facebook.

This is simply indicative that Google is now so big that it has barely grown beyond its Web 1.0 algorithm, and it is now pairing its service with social networks to improve relevance for advertisement placement (their core business).  The price Google pays for this, or will pay, is not insignificant.  With this approach, Google has managed to diminish the reach and the initial value of their search engine at a time when more diverse and time-critical information is available on the Web.  

It is difficult to predict if the move to social-network driven search will become the new reality of discovery.  Some might say that it is the new reality considering the amount of time spent on Facebook or Twitter.  Then what about awareness?  Where does one turn to know what they don’t know, and gain awareness beyond the boundaries of social networks and the growing limitations of search?  I think that this is the fundamental question that has inspired me to create Darwin Ecosystem.  I also think that this will encourage others to explore ways to improve a form of awareness that leads to discoveries, innovation and the simple pleasure that comes with learning new things.

(I hope that Woody Allen does not mind me using this image from Sleeper.  I think that it is pretty representative of what Google think our on-line communities are like. - find Google on the picture.)