Saturday, December 31

Yahoo Search New Year's Eve Outage

So far, Yahoo's search results have been offline for at least an hour. Perhaps a hard disk failure(s)? As the tech team here at Globalspec would say, "SCSI go pooh", in technical terms.

Look's like the folks watching the search server clusters at Yahoo are out enjoying a Happy New Year's! I bet somewhere, someone, has a beeper going off and they are headed back to the office. Hopefully the partying hasn't gotten too far along or this could take awhile ;-). Remember geeks don't let other geeks drive drunk.

Also of note, this means that Rolly-o is down, because it uses Yahoo search.

Since I don't have a beeper, (sorry, Kathleen!) I'm heading out to celebrate.

Happy new year's!

Tuesday, December 27

All aboard the Gravee train

Time for some Gravee and biscuits. Gravee is a new meta-search engine whose gimmick is to reward webmasters for their content.

They share revenue with the sites whose pages are viewed in the search results. Gravee shares 70% of the ad revenue directly to the website owners. If your site appears in the top 10, you get 1/10 of the money or a total of 7% of the ad money from that page view. The position your site appears in doesn't matter, everyone gets the same amount.

The name Gravee is a reference to gravy, as in the "Gravy Train", meaning money with little or no effort -- cushy. The money that they share with web content owners is "pure gravee." Gravy train is an example of a collocation. "Gravy Train" has an interesting history, it's origins aren't completely certain. I found this interesting Q&A on Google on the meaning of the word "Gravy Train", which I think offers a pretty good treatment of some possibilities.

The theory behind Gravee is very interesting and unique. Here is their manifesto, from their blog:
We view ourselves as much as a distributor of content as we do a search engine. Search advertising is content driven. It’s an economy of attention – i.e. one could posit that the content showing up most frequently in search results is driving the most ad revenue. As a result, our economic model is so, as well – meaning, whatever content gets more attention (i.e. shows up in more searches) will get paid more.
In theory, rewarding web content owners for content directly from a search engine is a cool idea. In practice it could turn into a nightmare. Perhaps it's just my cynicism from first hand experience here at Globalspec with Spam, but paying the people for merely appearing in search results is Naive, with a capital N.

For starters, this fails to account for user intent -- clicks on search results. It's like suddenly we're back in the dot bust era with Pay-Per-Impression (CPM) model. To heck with your performance, we'll pay you anyway, even if not a single user clicks on your search result because it's not relevant.

Now that Gravee has provided incentive to scam the system with their checkbooks, they hand them the keys to kingdom -- an affiliate network. Gravee search affiliates make 35% of the ad revenue whose searches originate from their site. Gee, I wonder what happens if do a site: query -- wohoo!! I've now made 81% (65% * 70% = 46% + 35%) of the ad revenue. Whoop de da. Ok, ok, let's say they put a kabosh on those shenanigans.

Jeremy, in his reply on TechCrunch's coverage, echoes my thoughts exactly:
So now a spammer (err, I mean “SEO”) can get money from a search engine by being in the top 10 even if they’re never clicked on.

I’m in the wrong end of this business!

If Gravee had a novel way of ensuring a site didn't SEO and that all their results were 100%relevant, this would be a great model. However, this is Impossible, as I state in my comment on their blog.

One place they could improve is their means of verification for the AdSahre program. The site owner verification mechanism requires that your e-mail match the ICANN owner. This may be fine for large sites, but it doesn't work for bloggers whose content is on a shared provider, like my blog. I don't own blogspot, and therefore I can't sign-up. So much for "empowering the little guy."

So, does Gravee have a new and innovative product here? In other words, are their search results any better? The website is pretty mum on the exact details, except for a comment by William on their blog:
We have an algorithm on the back calculating clickthrough rates and other factors to re-rank the existing relevance rank of today’s search engines.
In other words, the only thing new they are adding is utilzing click through data -- which is nothing new. The major SEs are very careful when dealing with click through data. Click through data can be difficult to intrepret, and you need a lot of it. Using it in ranking also leads to somewhat of a positive feedback loop, because higher results are clicked on more frequently and clicking on a result pushes it higher. Don't get me wrong, click through data has potential, but only on a large scale system with lots of data, which Gravee does not yet have, to my knowledge.

Perhaps Gravee has some other secret sauce, but I haven't seen anything worth writing home about, yet (maybe that will change). Perhaps I'm being cynical, but they seem to be excited about touting their novel business model rather than focusing on their product, the quality of their search results. That bothers and worries me.

Here's my prediction: if it appears to good to be true, it probably is -- or at least probably won't be for long! Still, I've got to give them Kudos for having their heart in the right place, maybe they can find a way to make it work.