Friday, December 23

Roller and JRoller -- Blogging for the Java community

So, I have my blog on Blogger, but I am keeping my eye on Roller. According to the site Roller is:
Roller is a blog server, a Java-based web application that is designed to support multiple simultaneous weblog users and visitors. Roller supports all of the latest-and-greatest weblogging features such as comments, WYSIWYG HTML editing, page templates, RSS syndication, trackback, blogroll management, and provides an XML-RPC interface for blogging clients such as w:bloggar, MarsEdit, Ecto, and nntp//rss.
Hmm, sounds cool. Sun uses it on its website and it has integrated spell checking using Jazzy.

There is also a free Roller blog hosting service called JRoller. It is "the catalyst of the java blogging community." JRoller has a lot of promise. It has a pretty sizable blogging community there, purportedly 10,000+ java developers. Wow! That's a very sizable Java geek squad in one place. Does Microsoft have a .Net blogging community? ;-) One area where there is opportunity for improvement is the URL you get for your blog: Apprentely, they are considering offering sub-domains (like Blogger). Please go over and add your voice for this feature!

Overall, Roller looks like a fairly mature platform and the JRoller community looks to be growing... I'm definitely a fan of Java, so I have a feeling I'll be reading more geek blogs over there.

On that note, instead of going on a GYM diet, perhaps I should go on a A-List free blogger diet. No reading Scoble, Greg, Jeremy, Matt, Battelle, Om, etc... Rather, I'll read less well known and geekier blogs, perhaps I'll start by exploring JRoller...

It's a slow friday... so congrats to whoever reads this ;-).

Wednesday, December 21

Beyond Google: specialty and alternative SEs

Kevin Delaney wrote an article that ran Monday in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Beyond Google" where he looks at specialty search engines and databases. Here is the public link for the article. It's a good survey of vertical search engines broken down by category. Of note, Globalspec got a mention along with Scirus and LawCrawler as "industry" search tools:
GlobalSpec Inc., for one, offers an engineering search engine that searches about 200 million engineering and technical Web pages. GlobalSpec, of Troy, N.Y., also allows users to search within specialized databases, such as published technical standards and patent filings in the U.S. and internationally.
Perhaps it's a pet peeve, but some of the sites Delaney lists are specailized databases, not true vertical search engines. When people say "search engine" today there is an implicit reference to Google, and therefore web search engines. A web search engine is a subclass of database, a very large database (VLDB). I think it is important to differentiate between these specialized, vertical, web search engines and specialized database driven websites. Gary Price at SE Watch gets this right, with their follow-up to the story, Specialty Databases (Verticals) The Focus of a WSJ article. Apparently, Gary was one important source for Kevin's story.

Since we are talking about search engines beyond Google, LifeHacker also recently posted a list of top ten alternative search engines.

One of my favorite new vertical search engines is FoodieView - "The Recipe Search Engine". It integrates a "Recipe Box" where you can save search results. Pretty neat. My own big beef with FoodieView is the ads. I really dislike the way FoodieView integrates their ads in line with the organic search results. It makes the search results difficult to read and starts to blur between paid and organic results. Two thumbs down on that aspect. For now, I'll stick with RollyO, where I can accomplish the same thing by limiting the sites I search (without the annoying ad format). In addition, the Rollyo results are even a little more comprehensive and better ranked. However, I have to say cheers to the creators of FoodieView for an interesting idea -- they beat me to the punch. Maybe someday I'll start a competitor in my spare time. ;-)

One hole in the WSJ article is blog search. There are lots of cool and interesting blog search engines -- Technorati, IceRocket, Feedster, etc... and then newcomers such as OpinMind and hopefully soon, Sphere.

Tuesday, December 20

The Spirit of Search, Past, Present and Future

Spirits don't just come in the Christmas variety to visit holiday Scrooges. They also come in the form of users past, present, and future. And this is the time of year that search engines are heralding in the Spirit of Search Present. For example, today Google announced its take on the "interesting" search movers and shakers of 2005. Many of the other major search engines (with the notable exception of MSN) are doing the same. Here is a quick round-up:

  • Google zeitgeist 2005 -- A selective look at the 'interesting' queries of 2005. It is organized into categories: World Affairs, Nature, Movies, Celebrities, and Phenomena. There is no "top queries" list. The top gainers of 2005 are: MySpace, Ares, Baidu, and Wikipedia.
  • Yahoo! 2005 Top Searches -- Top queries include: Britney, 50 Cent, and Cartoon Network.
  • Lycos Top 100 of 2005 -- Paris Hilton, Pamela, and Britney top the list.
  • AOL's 2005 Year in Review -- The most popular: lottery, horoscopes, and tattoos.
Lycos' Daily Report and the Yahoo Buzz Index both have interesting features on the holiday season. Look at the queries. So, what do people want for Christmas?

  • MP3 Players -- specifically the Ipod (Nano, Video, Shuffle, Mini, etc...)
  • Sony PSP
  • XBox 360
  • Laptops
However, search terms have greater meaning beyond telling the latest fads in pop culture and what to buy your nephew for Christmas.

Search terms are fascinating things -- they represent the Spirit of User Intent. John Battelle has a lot to say about user queries and the power of user intent on his blog and in his very interesting book, The Search. Personally, I find queries absolutely fascinating. I would really like to spend some more time researching their deltas from season to season and year to year across the major engines (although a detailed analysis is impossible because much of the data is private, of course).

Yahoo, Google, and other industry leaders use search terms as one important metric in deciding what "verticals" to enter next. I was watching a presentation given by Brad Horowitz from Yahoo, and he had an interesting tidbit: Yahoo decides what verticals to enter based on what users search for. They also order their "tabs" based on the search frequency of that partical "vertical" market.

If you want to create a vertical search engine, of any kind, you should be asking yourself, "What is your audience searching for?" Start analyzing the popular queries across the major search engines. If you work for a search engine with access to a data warehouse, then you are truly blessed. If not, then maybe the most popular are a good starting point. At least some of this data is publicly accessible -- the above links are great starting places. Once you've looked at this year, compare it with past years and look for trends. Then maybe dive into keyword analysis tools for more depth. One thing I think you will notice is that Pamela, Britney, wrestling (WWE) and similar entertainment and celebrity queries consistently float to the top.

Another approach might be to find the important and the popular categories in the query stream. In fact, the search engines have started the process along. Yahoo and others have organized their popular queries into categories like: Music, Sports, TV, Kids Stuff, Movies, Video Games, and News. Staring at these lists it is no surprise that Google recently launched enhanced music search features, more details can be found on Google's blog post on the new features. Hmm, I wonder what will be next!

The Spirit of Search Future: 2006 and beyond. Video, music, movie, and news search (like Topix) have all already seen some attention in 2005, but look for them to really take off next year. There is also gaps in search that aren't covered. From the above list I see sports, kids stuff, and video games -- and that's just for starters. Look for more entertainment centric vertical search in 2006. But, hey, don't take my word for it.

Go check out the top queries of 2005 and make your own predictions about search in 2006. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Up Next: One of the top gainers of 2005 in the Google ZeitGeist (and others), Myspace. And Google's ban on Kozoru.