Telco History 2:"Sol Trujillo's under-appreciated legacy" (February 2016, 200 words)
Praise for Catherine Livingstone's reign as Telstra chair is well-deserved, and appropriate.
But the gratuitous slagging-off of Sol Trujillo in today's (25 Feb 2016) The Australian and Australian Financial Review for his period as Telstra's CEO (2005-2009) deserves a brief response.
Trujillo was appointed by the board with a major project to undertake - the upgrading of Telstra's mobile networks to counter the longterm revenue decline of the fixed line network. This was done with great speed in 2005-2006, aided by the imported management team, existing TLS executives, many thousands of communication workers across a range of functions and the equipment supplier, Ericsson.
The Next G network effectively "saved" Telstra's revenue, irrespective of the political barney between the telco's CEO and the government of the day (Howard, LNP) or the subsequent government (Rudd, ALP), and its lead headkicker in the telco space, Stephen Conroy.
Trujillo has been given a bad rap since his arrival in July 2005 and Livingstone's resignation is a good time to reflect on the contribution he made to the incumbent telco's subsequent success.
©M Zerman 25 February 2016
Telco History Australia:"Keep calm - completing the NBN will take 11 years" (February 2015, 400 words)
To understand the significance of NBNCo today it is useful to examine the history of public investment in telephony and telecommunications infrastructure over the past century.
STAGE ONE - from the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia (1900-1901) until 1975, all terrestrial infrastructure was funded by the national government. This was the period of the analogue telephone network managed by the Post-Master General's department, often described as the "plain old telephone system" (POTS).
STAGE TWO - this phase commenced with the creation of Telecom Australia in 1975 and the subsequent installation of remote digital exchanges in suburban and regional areas, thus allowing direct subscriber trunk dialling (STD & ISD). This was referred to as the "public switched telephone network" (PSTN), marked the beginning of Australia's modern digital network and ran until the mid 1990s. Public, that is federal/Commonwealth investment, essentially ceased with the privatisation of Telstra commencing in 1997.
STAGE THREE - in the decade following the privatisation of Telstra (1997-2009), investment in telco infrastructure was only financed by private enterprises; Telstra, Optus, Hutchison, Vodafone and other smaller players.
STAGE FOUR - the creation of the National Broadband Network Company (NBNCo) in 2009 by the federal Labor government led to the third tranche of public investment in telecommunications infrastructure. This will total $40 billion (equity and debt) by 2020 and is the single greatest telecomms investment in the past 115 years, that is since Federation.
LESSONS - the lesson to be learned from this brief foray into telephony and telecomms history is that the long view is essential in trying to understand the significance of NBNCo today.
FIRST, incremental investment over 115 years has led to the digital possibilities underpinning Australia's modern telecommunication networks.
SECOND, the NBNCo period (ie 2009-2020) will also see incremental improvements as different regions of Australia are hooked up to an integrated, IP-based network core comprising the transit network, five access networks and 121 points of interconnection (POIs).
THIRD, to reiterate, the current planned investment of $40 billion of public funds to upgrade Australia's telecommunications infrastructure is a significant show of faith in the country's digital future. When finished, Australia will have the largest (geographic), ubiquitous, wholesale broadband network in the world.
This will take 11 years to complete, so let's not get our knickers in a knot too soon.
Michael Zerman is an Adelaide-based writer and publishing consultant with a 30-year history around telecommunications and ICT.
©M Zerman 3 February 2015
Telcos & Startups 6:"Still a startup - NBNCo's transitional plan" (November 2014, 50 words)
Australia's wholesale monopoly network provider, NBNCo, released its revised Corporate Plan on 17 November 2014.
"Shows promise with a self-described 'transitional plan'; rocky shoals yet to be negotiated past; still attempting to exit 'startup phase' as unable to show a repeatable and scalable business model."[23 November]
©M Zerman 17 November 2014
Telcos & Startups 5:"NBNCo 2014 - still a startup or finally an enterprise?" (August 2014, 300 words)
A brief RECAP for readers recently arrived in the arcane world of Australia's broadband policy debate. A debate, incidentally, that involves public expenditure of A$40 Billion.
A change of national government in September 2013 resulted in a change of ownership at NBNCo, and a consequent turnaround in strategy for the delivery of a national high-speed broadband network.
In December 2013, a Strategic Review of the NBNCo was published revealing first signs of the new government's alternative path for Australia's broadband sector, described as the Multi Technology Mix (MTM). In April 2014, a revised Statement of Expectations was delivered by the federal government to the board of NBNCo, essentially "riding instructions" from the owner to the operator.
April 2014 was also a busy time for two of the main players in the game, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Ziggy Switkowski, non-executive Chair of NBNCo. They delivered significant speeches to the CommsDay conference, Switkowski here and Turnbull here, outlining the expected future directions for NBNCo and the broadband project generally.
The four documents noted above provide a comprehensive background to the main story, the forthcoming publication of NBNCo's Corporate Plan for 2014-2017.
NOW READ ON
Australia's wholesale-only, national access monopoly network provider, NBNCo, will deliver its Corporate Plan for 2014-2017 in the next few
Two outcomes will be immediately apparent: does the Corporate Plan look like a goer, that is, is it believable and deliverable; and has the NBN concept moved from the startup phase in its life to the next stage, that of executing a repeatable and scalable business model. (See Blank Search Vs Execute, Zerman NBN: it's a startup, stupid.)
©M Zerman 5 August 2014
Telcos & Startups 4: "Australia's broadband turnaround begins" (December 2013, 200 words)
[This is the fourth in a series examining successive Australian governments' plans for a national highspeed broadband network (NBN). We're now at Phase 2, Stage 6 of NBN: it's a startup, stupid].
Three months after the newly elected LNP government took office, and two months after commissioning a review of the previous Labor government's broadband plans, the Strategic Review of NBN Co has been released.
The pertinent documents are: the transcript of a speech by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull introducing the review to the lower house of Australia's parliament; a ministerial statement by Turnbull accompanied by a set of ministerial FAQs; a media release from the government-owned statutory authority NBN Co; and the Strategic Review itself, coming in at 135 pages, a 5MB PDF download.
Analysis and commentary will follow shortly. But we're inclined to agree with Grahame Lynch, founder and editor-in-chief of CommsDay, who wrote in a comment piece published 13 December, Telecom Fantasia now officially over:
"But for those who complain that the fine detail of the rebooted NBN may not be to their liking, I would simply say suck it up. It is time for the telecommunications industry's culture of complaint to be replaced by one of constructive compromise".
©M Zerman, 12 December 2013
Telcos & Startups 3: "Shareholder revolt at Australia's NBNCo, new owners take control"(September 2013, 300 words)
Australians voted in a national, federal election on 7 September 2013 and the Liberal-National Party coalition (LNP) was successful, ending six years of rule by the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
The change of government means control of the federal Government-owned statutory authority, the National Broadband Network company (NBNCo), will also change. And as projected in our April 2013 article NBN: It's a startup, stupid, Phase Two in the life of Australia's largest telco startup will shortly commence.
At this early stage post-election, the best indication of the new LNP government's broadband plans are contained in its policy documents and background paper for the telecommunications sector, released in April 2013.
In the most simple terms, a national fibre to the node network (FTTN) will replace the outgoing ALP's fibre to the premises plan (FTTP).
Obviously there's much more involved for NBNCo than this admittedly simplistic caricature, including renegotiating access rights with the dominant telco Telstra; redefining the technical objective and service offerings; renegotiating substantial construction contracts; refining the organisation's priorities for delivery; and reviewing the financing arrangements for an expenditure of public funds approaching $A40 Billion.
For international readers wishing to follow the action in this exciting "startup turnaround situation", the most credible telco industry commentary is published by Communications Day. For mainstream media commentary, the best informed writers, reporters and analysts are found in two national daily newspapers, the Australian Financial Review (Fairfax owned) and The Australian (News Corporation owned).
Keep an eye out - this enforced turnaround with it's substantial pivot may not be as big as the creation of the Baby Bells in 1984, but the repercussions will be equally significant for Australia's telecommunications industry.
Permanent link for Telcos and Startups 3
©M Zerman, 9 September 2013
Telcos & Startups 2: "NBN founders ejected, control play in progress" (July 2013, 250 words)
The auguries contained within our April article describing the startup status of Australia's national broadband network (NBN) appear to be coming into play. [NBN: It's a startup, stupid]
"Founder ejection" was canvassed in this piece only three months ago and suddenly two significant "founders" of the NBN startup are gone.
Firstly, Stephen Conroy: for the past six years Conroy has been the minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, with the operational task of implementing the government's NBN policy. He was also the public face (and voice) of the political and ideological campaign to persuade Australians of the merit of the Labor government's broadband vision.
A change of Prime Minister in late June 2013 was followed by the appointment of Anthony Albanese as the new telco minister and the departure of Stephen Conroy to the backbenches of Australia's Senate.
Second, Mike Quigley: the first employee of the NBN Co enterprise, CEO Quigley's task was to build a giant telco startup, from scratch. Four years later the NBN Co is either "mortally wounded" or "hitting all its targets", depending which side of the debate you choose. Whatever, on 12 July 2013 Quigley announced his resignation as CEO of NBN Co after four years on the job.
With two figure-head "founders" departed from the startup and a national election due shortly, control of the enterprise is definitely in play.
Permanent link for Telcos and Startups 2
©M Zerman 13 July 2013
Telcos & Startups: As Australia's NBN Co approaches commercialisation phase, founders face the sack"(April 2013, 600 words)
[This article was published in a slightly revised form on 26 April 2013 by CommsDay, Australia's leading telecommunications daily, subscription only, as "NBN: It's a startup, stupid".]
STARTUP: define: a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Within this definition, a startup can be a new venture or it can be a new division or business unit in an existing company.
The release of an alternative national fast broadband plan by Australia's opposition political parties (Coalition/LNP) on 9 April 2013 is noted - background paper here, policy documents here.
With Australia's federal election due shortly (possibly 14 September 2013), broadband and telecommunications policy choices are now more sharply defined.
And with hindsight, it's possible to view the period 2007-2013 as Phase 1 in the life of a telco startup. Here the startup comprises the "NBN concept" and the "NBN Co enterprise" built to bring the startup to market.
Consider the following activities and time frames:
PHASE 1, 2007-2013
1. Early stage founders/visionaries pitch idea.
2. External factors provide access to capital, here the 2007 federal election and the new government's dislike of the dominant, incumbent telco.
3. Founders establish enterprise while navigating rocky shoals.
4. Founders stumble when bringing proof of concept into production, resulting in minimal impact on market.
PHASE 2, 2013-2019, projection
5. Activist equity holders (voters) seek a change of control and direction at forthcoming AGM (Australian election 2013), install new operators to the enterprise (fixers) to deliver revised service to market.
6. New operators immediately pivot on technical objective, service offering, implementation timetable and funding arrangements.
7. By next AGM (Australian election 2016), new operators deliver 85% of rollout as planned to date.
PHASE 3, 2020+, projection
8. Subject to completion of rollout, owners approve planning for IPO of enterprise.
9. After much angst and recrimination, the founders are recognised by the fixers for the value of their initial contribution.
Lest readers think this is a fanciful and fallacious analogy, that is NBN as startup and founder ejection, Australia's largest telco already provides an example of in-house pivoting, while founder ejection is common in Silicon Valley, suggesting "getting the boot" leads to improved execution for the enterprise.
In-house pivoting - Telstra's NextG network
During 2005 and 2006, Telstra constructed a mobile wireless 3G network (HSPA/HSDPA) virtually from scratch. Sol Trujillo's team successfully executed a network build and delivery that "saved" Telstra whose fixed wireline revenues were in serious decline.
Founder ejection - Steve Jobs' demise/resurrection at Apple Inc
Steve Jobs was a co-founder of Apple computers in 1976. In 1983 John Scully was recruited from PepsiCo to lead Apple and turn around Apple's unsuccessful attempts to gain major market share. Jobs was ejected from Apple in 1985 and went on to found NEXT computers and Pixar films. In 1993 Scully was forced out of Apple, and by 1997 Jobs was back in control at Apple Inc. Scully's recent reassessment of Jobs is pertinent.
Some conclusions I draw with this initial attempt to conceptualise the "NBN as startup" are:
1. The federal government's misguided attempt at a universal FTTP project was, from the beginning, impossible to execute in its entirety, desirable or not.
2. The enforced "pivoting" of the NBN project should lead to an achievable outcome with an acceptable level of service delivery.
3. Startup culture is hard to manage and successful execution remains the exception rather than the norm.
Permanent link for Telcos, Startups and NBN.
©M Zerman 2013
NEWS-ISH: November 2012 (800 words)
Startups and South Australia: "Not even on the list"
Last evening, 20 Nov 2012, the governor of Australia's Reserve Bank, Glen Stevens, delivered a speech entitled "Producing Prosperity".
Alan Kohler, a former Financial Review columnist and regular head on ABC TV news as their markets' commentator, was at Stevens' talk and today wrote about Australia's innovation culture in a piece The Governor and Business Spectator.
Kohler was one of four founders of the Business Spectator enterprise five years ago and celebrated his startup's success, and recent acquisition by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd, in the article.
Kohler made point on capital formation, government policy reform and most tellingly on innovation:
"But one thing that neither Glenn Stevens nor Gary Banks [outgoing Productivity Commission chairman] talked about enough is not susceptible to government decree: innovation, and in particular, creating start-ups and, even more particularly, getting them to scale. A report to be released today by Deloitte and produced with two start-up specialist firms, Pollenizer in Sydney and Startup Genome in the US, compares Australia's performance in generating start-ups with that of America. It's based on Startup Genome's database of 50,000 start-up firms around the world."
"According to the study, appealingly called "Silicon Beach", Australia has four start-up "ecosystems": Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Sydney is 55 per cent bigger than Melbourne, six times bigger than Brisbane and eight times the size of Perth.
"But Silicon Valley in California is 6.7 times the size of Sydney and New York is 2.6 times larger.
"The difference is capital: start-ups in California raise 100 times as much money as Sydney ones in the scale stage, and they raise 4.8 times as much in the earlier stages of discovery, validation and efficiency."
Kohler analysed capital formation in Australia, "Australia punches well above its weight in capital formation, thanks to compulsory superannuating and the $1.4 trillion super pool", and then noted "actually, super fund money is unlikely ever to do much work in early stage firms Ð it's a job for rich individuals."
Possibly the most important takeaway for the local SA economy in the Deloitte report's analysis of "ecosystems" is that Adelaide, and South Australia, is not even on the list. The Silicon Beach report states candidly on page eight:
"Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra cannot yet be considered as startup ecosystems as they don't show the requisite startup activity"
It's not for wanting of dreaming or creating, I suggest, nor is there a lack of successful ventures in and around Adelaide that have made it onto the international stage.
In fact, four years ago I wrote about a local beachhead which I cheekily named the Rundle Valley in an analysis of the Australian federal government's review of innovation policy, Venturous Australia. And my trusty content publicist, John Harris of Impress Media, put out a release on the subject, Rundle Valley tagged as likely innovation hotbed.
A year earlier, that is five years ago next month, I published an experiential and personal piece on the development of innovation in an incubatory environment within this Rundle Valley precinct.
Take note, this is not a whinge about the closure of the SA government's Innovation Department, nor the end of the Playford Capital VC outfit - things come, things go and things pivot. It's simply an observation on the lack of foresightedness in those areas where governments can and often do intervene to support an innovation environment, hopefully by getting out of the way most of the time.
The forthcoming closure of the Royal Adelaide Hospital's east campus provides the opportunity and possibility of reinvigorating the potential of Adelaide's only, but now diminished, startup ecosystem, the Rundle Valley. Which I also wrote about two years ago for the local print publication, The Independent Weekly, now the online publication InDaily, and published as No wrecker's ball for the RAH.
So to recap from my earlier analysis of this precinct and its achievements:
"Most importantly, there are successful local RundleValley enterprises that have substantial profitable revenues ($100M+ in Australian or international sales) or have been acquired by international corporations for sums approaching US$100M."
"A selection of local outfits with a Rundle Valley association, history or pedigree include Hostworks, Maxamine, Rocksoft, Imagination, Scott Hicks' film ventures, Internode, the Chimo financial transaction gateway, CarbonPlanet, Kojo, Anifex, Zork, the YellowTail wine label, ViaMedia, Fusion and Wakefield Press. Not forgetting, of course, all the work going on in the area described as the 'Florey bio-sciences precinct' centred on Uni SA, Adelaide University and the IMVS."
Over to you - you should or may know who you are.
Update 5 December 2012: We await with interest the federal government's Industry and Innovation statement, noted in James Eyers' excellent overview "Adventures in Venture Capital", published in the December 2012 issue of the Australian Financial Review's Capital magazine.
Permanent link for Startups and South Australia
© Michael Zerman, 21 November 2012
NEWS-ISH: February 2012 (120 words)
Hewlett Packard update: "Reset, rebuild and reinvest", says Whitman
In our brief note published in November 2011, below, we asked a rhetorical question about HP's decision to ditch, then not ditch, its PC unit: "So what did go on, why did Hewlett Packard change its mind and who the heck said yes in the first instance? "
Meg Whitman, now 150 days into her reign as HP's CEO, has partially answered these questions in an interview with Kevin McLaughlin of Computer Reseller News magazine, published on 13 February 2012.
McLaughlin's article gives a comprehensive account of HP's, and Whitman's, new directions for the world's largest computer outfit.
Well worth a read, at "Whitman's campaign to bring HP back".
NEWS-ISH: November 2011(150 words)
100 UnNixers Say Remix as HP PSG Nixing Offed: "Hewlett Packard decides to retain its personal computer unit, the Personal Systems Group 11/2011"
In August 2011, the largest maker of personal computers, Hewlett Packard, decided to divest its PC unit, the Personal Systems Group (PSG). Within weeks of that board-approved decision, the company's CEO Leo Apotheker had been unceremoniously booted from his position.
Apotheker was replaced as CEO by Meg Whitman, former boss of EBay and more recently unsuccessful candidate for Governor of California. Whitman and the board chair Ray Lane reacted quickly to the outcry caused by the "PC spinout" decision and conducted a re-examination of the plan.
Now a group of 100 HP business and operational analysts has presented its review of the PC unit decision to HP's board and ... the sale is off.
So what did go on, why did Hewlett Packard change its mind and who the heck said yes in the first instance?
NEWS-ISH: April 2011 (150 words)
Future camera worlds: "Is convergence feasible or desirable for digital stills, smartphones and videography? 04/2011"
Just published is a very interesting and future-focussed discussion about image capture, digital sensors, camera and video form factors, innovation in corporations, iteration VS innovation, economics of international camera markets, DSLRs vs compacts vs mirrorless, and more. Quite technical at almost 13,000 words and participants include US photographer Thom Hogan.
Part one of Future Camera Worlds starts here, with part two and part three following.
Worth cuttin', pastin', printin' and readin' in a comfortable lounging chair.
Suitable for: advanced amateur image makers and beyond, innovation-interested types, DSLR users, ASIC/VLSI chip fiends, Silicon Valley watchers, international markets' analysts, camera designers, surf photographers and polymaths.
NEWS-ISH: February 2011 (200 words)
Bodysurfing Olympics 2011: "Mike Stewart takes 13th title at Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic" 02/2011
The world of competitive bodysurfing has major annual events in locations as disparate as the Basque region of southern France, Brazil and California's Oceanside Beach. But there is general agreement that the most demanding, Olympic-equivalent event is Hawaii's Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, held on Oahu's famed North Shore beaches at Ehukai.
This year's event was completed on 19 Feb 2011, with Mike Stewart taking out the event for the thirteenth time and Hawaii's Kai Santos as the runnerup. French surfer Frederic David from Club Biarritz finished fourth in the six person final, being the only non-Hawaiian to get through to the last round.
Full results are available online at the PipeBodySurf site - and history of the event, which commenced in 1971, plus results from 1980 onward are available at Pipe BodySurfing History.
NEWS-ISH: August 2010 (350 words)
Algorithms & Elections: "Just tweaking the algorithm", says Australia's leading psephologist, Antony Green 08/2010
Australia conducted its national, federal elections this past weekend (Sat 21 August 2010) and the results are still unfolding 72 hours later. At the time of writing, it appears there will be no majority winner in the national capital, Canberra, with both major parties falling short of the 76 seats required to control the 150 seat House of Representatives, Australia's lower house of parliament, and where it mostly happens.
[Election tragics outside Australia can read Wikipedia's reasonably accurate piece on the parliamentary system at Parliament of Australia - Wikipedia.]
The Australian Labor Party (ALP, nominally small 'l' liberal) seems to have won 72 seats in the House of Reps, as has the Liberal-National Party coalition (LNP, nominally small 'c' conservative). Australia's Green Party has won its first seat in the lower house electorate of Melbourne and the Greens will also control the Senate (Australia's upper house) with nine members out of a total of 76 senators elected from the six states and two territories.
And so to the algorithm.
Habitues of the world of search, including Bernardo Huberman of Hewlett Packard Labs and Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand, may be amused to see this election explicitly joining our shared interest, as Australia's acknowledged 'seer of psephology', Antony Green, recently tweeted to the 6000 election tragics who follow his expert analysis:
@AntonyGreenABC: "Just tweaked the prediction algorithm and that moved Brisbane from LNP Leading to LNP Gain."
So there you go search-hounds - the algo is not greater than the sword, but it has joined Australia's cliff-hanger election by playing a small part in determining the predicted outcome of Australia's 2010 federal vote.
NEWS-ISH: March 2010 (500 words)
Pitching Stories: "Your PR mission, should you choose to accept it ..." 03/2010
I recently met with a colleague to discuss public relations and pitching stories to editorial outlets.
My colleague works as an in-house copywriter for a small marketing department in a building and construction enterprise. His prior experience as an international brand manager in financial services software means he's become a defacto contact point for PR and media liaison activities in his organisation. This is an area where M was not entirely confident of his professional skills and expertise, so recently we sat down with a beer and roamed over the territory for a couple of hours.
Next day M emailed me with thanks for the chat, and I responded, trying to crystallise the threads in a succinct, and hopefully useful, summary.
Thanks also for the journo tips. It all made complete sense and was what I thought was required but, back in the workplace, I suspect that will all be assessed as too hard / too much effort / too time intensive / too much grovelling up to journos. Nonetheless, I will endeavour.
"Your PR mission, should you choose to accept it ... "
1. Treat media workers as you would any other professional operating at your level - be intelligent, be helpful, be informed and DON'T be a self-promoting, company-obsessed, boor.
2. Treat your media & PR strategies as that - STRATEGIES. Don't solely aim for short-termisms, with tactics such as "wow, a two-liner telling everyone that 'Jennifer J' got a job with us."
3. Think of the editorial people you're talking to as CLIENTS or PROSPECTS - I presume you treat clients & prospects as respected, intelligent and wanted, long-term contacts.
4. But DON'T engage with your prospects as a supplicant - that won't do the trick with journalists and writers. Who wants to hear "sucking noises" from someone they've never met, about something they don't yet have an interest in, let alone not wishing to hear crap pitches from a "suckup-nik"?
5. The outlets you are/will be pitching to ARE NOT yours - they're owned by Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes, pension funds or private equity groups from the USA. The media workers you are dealing with are NOT your employees. The stories you are pitching are just that - story pitches. Therefore ....
6. .... don't spend too much of your, or your organisation's, internal time by pretty-ing up your words or your media release. If a journalist is doing his/her job, YOUR words will simply be an "aid" or "pointer" to the story ... if it gets up.
7. Handcrafted is always best, a few phone calls, and always provide the names and contact numbers of people outside your organisation, people that journos might interview for depth in the stories.
17 JANUARY 2010: South Australia's Tour Down Under cycle race begins today, it's the first event of the UCI world Pro Tour, Lance Armstrong's opening race with his new Radio Shack team, and another vibrant cultural contribution to the Rundle Valley experience in Adelaide's East End precinct.
DECEMBER 2009: Tom Lynch's Big Wave Bodysurfing videos such as 'Pure Blue' and the 'Pipeline Classic' contest series, are no longer in distribution. Nor does Tom have a website, although he may resurrect one in the future. May I suggest joining the Yahoo Bodysurfing group (the larger, 700 member posse) and request copies from group members who have may them in VHS, CD or DVD.
NEWS-ISH: June 2009 (300 words)
Search & Snake Oil: "The Truth about Optimizing for Search Engines" 06/2009
[This review was published by Adelaide's Independent Weekly in May 2009.]
On one side of the computer screen are you and I, people using the web to find information, source products and consider service offerings.
On the other side of that screen are international businesses generating US$32 billion annually, with Google taking $21 billion of that digital marketing revenue in 2008.
Rebecca Lieb's new book, The Truth About Search Engine Opimization (SEO), looks at the middle ground between us and the search engines. This is a valley inhabited by digital media agencies and their clients, web developers, producers of content and the inevitable snake-oil salespersons.
Lieb's book is a well written, amusing and intelligent 200 page introduction to a universe where 50,000 people worldwide are employed to anticipate the one, two or three words we type into a search box - which we do daily at search engines, news sites, home pages, video-sharing portals and online sales operations.
So, who clicks where, why do we do it and what was in the results list that caught our attention?
On one side trying to influence our searching decisions are the snake-oil salespeople. These urgers make apparently compelling promises to website owners and business proprietors. "We'll get you to page one in Google", they claim, "maybe even the top spot".
Lieb's book is a welcome antidote to the chicanery of these "black hat" operators in the SEO game. She writes from an editorial and user perspective, suggesting that high quality content, good website architecture and ease of accessibility to a site's offerings are the cornerstone of being found on the web.
And a site's ability to be "well found" means we as searchers will be happy seekers, rather than frustrated searchers, seething at the screen and abandoning our search activity.
[The Truth About Search Engine Optimization by Rebecca Lieb, published by Financial Times Press/Pearson, ISBN 978-0-7897-3831-8]
Disclosure: I requested a review copy of this book from Financial Times Press/Pearson. They provided one.
NEWS-ISH: April 2009
Bodysurfing, the book: "Bodysurfing by Neville de Mestre launched" 4/2009
Neville de Mestre's book, "Bodysurfing", has finally hit the streets and beaches of Australia. The book developed from a technical paper, "Mathematics and physics of bodysurfing", published by de Mestre in 2004.
Publication of the book has been supported by Surf Life Saving Australia who pre-purchased copies for distribution to every surf club in Australia.
The book's chapters include: You too can bodysurf; Origins of bodysurfing in Australia; Waves and beaches; Riding a broken surf front; Catching a breaking wave; Getting out through the surf; Advanced bodysurfing skills; Safety in the surf; Competitive bodysurfing; Surf training; and a brief lexicon of Surf Talk.
The book is 60 pages with a colour cover, body text and photos in black and white, ISBN 978-0-646-50768-2, price A$20 and published by Vengram Educational Services, 46 Bertana Drive, Mudgeeraba Queensland 4213, AUSTRALIA.
NEWS-ISH: October 2008 (1000 words)
Innovation & South Australia: "Cutler, Estrin, culture and the Rundle Valley experience" 10/2008
[A revised version of this paper was published by the Adelaide Review in November 2008.]
The Cutler review of Australia's national innovation system, Venturous Australia, has a central focus on the enterprise or firm, and makes a major contribution by recognising the need for improved education funding, better research and skill development, and a changed tax credit regime. But contrasted to a recently released book, Closing The Innovation Gap, the Cutler review's minimal examination of the "cultural questions", broadly defined, leaves a gap in Venturous Australia's world view.
This note examines some "cultural questions" in response to the national innovation review, and suggests that Silicon Valley-like pre-conditions may already exist, albeit unrecognised, in a small 2km strip that extends from Adelaide's CBD to the city's eastern fringe, the Rundle Valley.
The federal government recently released (9 Sept 2008) a review of Australia's national innovation system conducted by Dr Terry Cutler (popularly referred to as the Cutler Review), and going under the formal title of "Venturous Australia - building strength in innovation".
Dr Cutler and a member of the review's expert panel, Dr Catherine Livingstone, are the keynote speakers at Adelaide's Innovation Conference 2008 (7 November 2008), organised by the state Department of Trade and Economic Development to discuss the innovation review and its implications for a small regional economy such as South Australia's. The premier, Mike Rann, is delivering the opening address.
I've been following the progress of the Cutler Review since its terms of reference were announced in early 2008, attended an Adelaide seminar organised by the review's secretariat prior to the close of public submissions, and have read and analysed the review following its release five weeks ago.
Almost simultaneously with Cutler's Review, a book by US engineer and venture developer, Judy Estrin, was published entitled Closing the Innovation Gap - reigniting the spark of creativity in the global economy.
The tag line for Estrin's book is "Technology and business pioneer Judy Estrin challenges business, education, and national leaders to work together - reigniting the sustainable innovation essential for future growth", a sentiment not dissimilar to the main thrust of the Cutler Review, Venturous Australia.
[Matt Vella of Business Week has a review of the book and a video interview with Judy Estrin at:
I'm writing a paper which initially looks at some of the ideas and proposals advanced through the Cutler Review - increased education spend, better R&D tax credits, developing human capital and skills, improved research funding, and most importantly, an increased focus on the enterprise and the firm.
But the primary orientation in my paper is on the "absences" in the Cutler review, which for me are the "cultural questions", handled quite interestingly in Estrin's book which focuses on the US in general, and Silicon Valley in particular.
In Dr Cutler's public appearances and responses following the report's publication, he was asked, amongst other things, about the Silicon Valley model of innovation and entrepreneurial development. He responded along the lines of "the report doesn't say we need to aim to have a Silicon Valley."
With which I agree.
[NB: Cutler mentioned a number of times in interviews that "culture" is very important, but the report itself is slim on references, analysis and examples of the "cultural" question.]
The "RUNDLE VALLEY" experience
I'm trying to grapple with, and advance, the proposition that "there already exist in Australia plenty of precursors to a 'Silicon Valley' model of innovation and entrepreneurial development". But a lack of focus on 'cultural questions' in the Cutler report has possibly blind-sided the authors to a recognition of existing models of innovation development.
As a local response to Cutler, I'm positing a geographical and cultural model of innovation that focusses on the "Rundle Valley" experience. This is a small Silicon Valley-like precinct centred around Rundle Street and about 2km long from west to east and about 1km wide. The Rundle valley extends from Adelaide's CBD and 500 metres either side of Rundle Street as it snakes eastward from Rundle Mall, through the East End, across the Parklands, and finally to Fullarton Road, Kent Town.
In this precinct are already ALL of the markers/ciphers that are generally used to indicate a Valley-like experience - higher education institutions, local headquarters of major international outfits with extensive R&D programs (eg Hewlett Packard, HPQ), public institutions such as a major teaching hospital and the second largest IT-spending SA government department, numerous international students in graduate and post-graduate programs, small startups and cultural institutions such as cinemas, bars, restaurants, gallery, library, museum, etc.
Most importantly, there are successful local Valley enterprises that have substantial profitable revenues ($100M+ in Australian or international sales) or have been acquired by international corporations for sums approaching US$100M.
A selection of local outfits with a Rundle Valley association, history or pedigree include Hostworks, Maxamine, Rocksoft, Imagination, Scott Hicks' film ventures, Internode, the Chimo financial transaction gateway, CarbonPlanet, Kojo, Anifex, Zork, the YellowTail wine label, ViaMedia, Fusion and Wakefield Press. Not forgetting, of course, all the work going on in the area described as the 'Florey bio-sciences precinct' centred on Uni SA, Adelaide University and the IMVS.
I wish to argue, as have others in earlier works such as Michael Porter's "The Competitive Advantage of Nations" and Richard Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class", that cultural questions, broadly defined, are an essential part of successful innovation, public well-being and wealth creation.
And that the "Rundle Valley" contains this cultural essence - the DNA of innovation - and is an unarticulated, Silicon Valley-like precinct waiting for its history and achievements to be recognised, and improved upon.
As a partisan aside, last December I wrote a short account of one Rundle Valley story entitled "Innovation and Incubation: Venturing at The Botanic".
"Corporations and enterprises worldwide are attempting to reinvent their models of innovation within the organisation. As calendar 2007 draws to a close, we present a reflection on innovation and the incubatory environments in which innovation is nurtured."
© Michael Zerman, 13 October 2008
NEWS-ISH: September 2008
Notebook sales forecast 2008-2012: "Are all those notebooks really on the move 24/7?" 09/2008
IDC has released its worldwide sales forecast for Notebooks out to 2012 worldwide sales forecast for Notebooks out to 2012 - these devices are also known as portables or laptops and now include ultra-mobile PCs. Worldwide sales of portable PCs for 2008 are set at near 150M units by end 2008, and almost 300M at end 2012.
The increase in Notebook sales between 1999 (19M notebooks sold) and 2008 (projected sales of 150M) shows an astounding increase of almost 700%.
Are all those notebooks really on the move 24/7, or are we seeing a move to desktop-based notebook computing?
Innovation Update: "Cutler's Australian review & Estrin's Innovation Gap" 09/2008
Released today (9 September) is a broad-ranging review of Australia's innovation efforts conducted by Terry Cutler and a group of eminent researchers. Also recently released is Closing the Innovation Gap by Judy Estrin, arguing for a renewed focus on fundamental research. Estrin is a former CTO of Cisco Systems and a startup maven who interviewed 130 technologists for her book. Both tomes are winging their way to the Adelaide CBD and reviews, plus analysis, will be posted in the next few days.
NEWS-ISH: May 2008 (400 words, two posts)
Search & Bodysurf: "Catching waves of electrons and water" 05/2008
It's a rare pleasure to post a note spanning that fuzzy boundary where search and surf intersect. Very string theory.
"Stealth search superstars get click in VC cash dash"
It's a crowded world for startups in the search arena, where myriad contenders are focussing on enterprise search, social search, blended results, image search or the current hot kickers, mobile and portable search.
The methodologies of these startups are varied, but their algorithms are usually described as "better than X", where X is the hot button proper noun designed to inflame the hearts of potential investors.
It's confusing for investors though (whether angel, seed, VC or IPO), as their choice is often between "the next new thing" or "a proven track record".
In search, a proven track record is my preference and the crew at Cuill appear to have it in spades. Beside their appealing faux modesty ("We are stealth"), the principals have dug trenches at Google's giant index, the Internet Archive and IBM's Web Fountain.
In particular, Anna Patterson's 2004 paper Why Writing Your Own Search Engine is Hard should be required reading for all investors, engine-builders and journalists, particularly those who profess to understand the world of large-scale search, where moving electrons around the globe is definitely a non-trivial exercise.
"The body, the wave and French publishing"
The human form gliding over the surface of a moving wave is the subject of a new French book on bodysurfing.
Hugo Verlomme and Laurent Masurel, authors of Bodysurf: the origins (2002), have teamed up with Marc Muguet for the June 2008 release of Bodysurf Passion: the body and the wave. (French title is Passion Bodysurf: Le corps et La Vague.)
The French effort in publishing two substantial books on bodysurfing in the past six years is also a non-trivial exercise. The last English language publication was The Art of Bodysurfing by Robert Gardner in 1972, and long out of print.
Passion Bodysurf: authors Muguet, Verlomme and Masurel, due for release June 2008, 17X24cm landscape format, 200+ colour photos, ISBN 978-2-916209-17-3, price 28 Euros, published by Editions Yago.
NEWS-ISH: February 2008 (180 words)
Bodysurfing Olympics: "Usual suspects prevail at Pipeline 2008" 02/2008
The world of competitive bodysurfing has major annual events in locations as disparate as the Basque region of southern France, Brazil and California's Oceanside Beach. But there is general agreement that the most demanding, Olympic-equivalent event is Hawaii's Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, held on Oahu's famed North Shore beaches at Ehukai.
This year's event has just been completed, 5 Feb 2008, with the many of the usual suspects making up the six-person final. Mike Stewart has taken out the event in 2008 for the umpteenth time (10, 11 or 12 victories), while the recently retired head lifeguard at Ehukai, Mark Cunningham, placed number five in the final - between them Cunningham and Stewart have won almost 20 titles. Second placed French surfer Frederic David from Club Biarritz was overjoyed with his performance, being the only non-Hawaiian in the final - bodysurfers from eight nations competed at Pipeline.
Results should be online soon at the PipeBodySurf site - placings for 2008 were: 1 Mike Stewart; 2 Frederic David; 3 Gavin Kennelly; 4 Steve Kapela; 5 Mark Cunningham; 6 Todd Sells.
A history of the event, which commenced in 1971, plus results from 1980 onward are available at Pipe BodySurfing History.
NEWS-ISH: December 2007 (second posting, 150 words)
Bodysurfing & Radio: 'The Science of Bodysurfing - online broadcast' 12/2007
Coming up this weekend (15/16 December) is an online broadcast about bodysurfing by Australia's leading science communicator, Robyn Williams.
He's interviewing the author of a book on bodysurfing, Neville de Mestre, whose earlier paper, "The Mathematics and Physics of Bodysurfing" is findable as a PDF using the quoted title. The book is due for publication by Queensland Surf in 2008.
The program will be broadcast by Australia's national public broadcaster, the ABC, and is available for online listening, or podcasting or reading a transcript, both of which will be posted after the broadcast.
The URL to get details of this program in the Ockham's Razor series is:
The local time and date of the broadcast (ex-Sydney, Australia) will be:
Sunday 16 December 2007, 8.45AM
Cheers, and good listening.
NEWS-ISH: December 2007 (900 words)
Innovation & Incubation: 'Venturing at The Botanic' 12/2007
Corporations and enterprises worldwide are attempting to reinvent their models of innovation within the organisation. As calendar 2007 draws to a close, we present a brief reflection on innovation and the incubatory environments in which innovation is nurtured.
Establishing an incubator
It was mid-1999 when I first rented office space in the commercial suites of Adelaide's Botanic Hotel, one level above the Botanic Cafe and Bar. I was then six months into a widget project that had been conceived, and generously nurtured, while I was hot-desking at Tennyson Andrew's visualisation and design studio, ISMVDS. When my photographer pal Christo unexpectedly offered the use of a spare office in the Botanic, I moved from Kent Town to the CBD and we were away.
At the end of year one (June 2000) I signed the headlease on the office suite and started looking for "interesting" co-tenants, people who were outward looking, entrepreneurial and worldly. It took five months, during which time I turned away ditzy PR types, electronic musicians, confused architects and information-challenged web designers.
One day a team of 30-something MBA students turned up. They were completing a group project at Adelaide University as part of their final MBA submissions and "had a dream" they wanted to realise.
Their dream, developing a methodology for "Crossing The Chasm" in early stage venture development, turned out to be less successful than they'd hoped. In fact, the project entered the "Valley of Death" that they were so carefully analyzing. One of the team, Dave, returned to his native Ireland; Remco, of Dutch parentage, joined a local digital media production company as CFO just as that enterprise started kicking goals in Hollywood; and Paul returned to his previous roles as a brilliant international biz-dev and sales type.
But Conor McKenna hung in there at the Botanic Incubator as a hardcore, and persistent, entrepreneur.
He established an innovators' and entrepreneurs' networking circuit (ala First Tuesday), he created (with corporate support) an annual innovators' and entrepreneurs' award, and he set up an events management arm leading to the success of his first iBall (Innovators Ball) which pulled 800 attendees.
And then, having had a bright idea for a closure for wine bottles, Conor was instrumental in raising $5M from VC sources for the Zork wine closure. Which is now licensed in ten global territories including the USA. [His current project aims at establishing an Australia-wide enterprise for high end paediatric, child development and occupational therapy services under the rubric Kid Sense Child Development.]
As is often the way with incubators and incubatees, Zork moved on to a more appropriate environment as their business venture expanded.
Hunting for the next set of co-tenants in 2005 also took five months as I again applied my criteria of "worldly and entrepreneurial". Saw some interesting projects as I filtered the applicants, the most likely being Imagination Ventures, an offshoot of the Imagination Group who have just won (November 2007) the gong as Australia's Entrepreneur of the Year. Congrats Shane and Kevin. But pressure of US expansion in 2005 and annual sales approaching US$100M forced these two "likely cats" to refocus on their main game and put off left-field venturing for another year.
Which lead to an executive search startup joining the Botanic Incubator alumni. Neil Anderson had passed through the space in 2003 while trying to get some VC connections going, and jumped at the chance to space-share. His Risk Management Recruiters has now hit the online world as a candidate-centric, recruitment and job placement vertical focussing on risk management in the Asia Pacific region.
Which brings us to December 2007 and a reflection on innovation and incubation in the world of the entrepreneurial startup.
Strategic persistence, serendipity and opportunism
So what have we learned after eight years in the innovation and incubation game?
• Hard work is fundamental to venture success, but smart work is much more significant.
• Strategic persistence is more valuable than random tactical forays.
• Serendipity is the mother of all needs, whether by active networking or the fortuitous viewing of a CTO's story in a Silicon Valley newspaper.
• Opportunism requires grabbing that strategic opening and giving it the death-grip.
• The "pay it forward" philosophy of serial reciprocity (see Wikipedia, all lower case) generally succeeds, whether in business models or personal interaction.
My collegiate and incubatory instincts have been honed thanks to: Phillip Frazer, for the publishing smarts learned at Rolling Stone and The Digger; Ian Reinecke, for the telco and comms expertise gained at Reed publishing; Frank Maloney, for the federal regulatory ride at ACMA; Claire Luckett, for the corporate legal publishing gig at AAR; Tennyson Andrew, you little incubator, you, at ISMVDS; Martyn Duckmanton and Conor McKenna for consistent (and persistent) support on the iholder project, and Michael Youds, it goes without saying; Peter Slattery at JWS, for offering a ringside seat at Australia's second largest M&A transaction in 2006, the $6Billion acquisition of Patrick Corp by Toll Holdings; and my parents for insisting on the primacy of an enquiring mind.
Finally, season's greetings to all, whether you observe Xmas, Chanukah, Hari Raya Haji, Saint Stephen's day or the Emperor's birthday. And Feliz Año Nuevo.
Some readings that have been of value this year include: Robert Kanigel's The One True Way, a great biography of the originator of modern management theory and practice, Freddy Winslow Taylor, also significant in stainless steel development; Andrew Hargadon's How Breakthroughs Happen; re-reading Donald Norman's Design of Everyday Things was a joy; Michael Malone's business-bio and cultural analysis, Bill & Dave; and Scott Berkun's little book, which reminded me to re-visit EH Carr's excellent What is History?.
NEWS-ISH: October 2007 (700 words)
Searcher Education: 'Got parts for a 1950s Atomic coffee maker?' 10/2007
It's been a while since I posted my little homily ("a moralising discourse or sermon") designed to assist the ill-educated searcher improve the results from their search engine enquiries. And it's well over two years since I suggested the search industry could improve its ROI by educating searchers, rather than hiring more nerds.
And I'd have to admit that both of these campaigns haven't been going so well.
First, on the personnel front, Google now has 16000 employees, half hired in the past 12 months, while Yahoo's headcount is around 13000. "Ignore me at your peril", he declaimed melodramatically, "but the education of searchers is the way forward for dramatic improvements in ROI for the sector."
Secondly, two incidents over the past forty eight hours reminded me of the work ahead.
A pal asserted that search engines were hopeless - she'd just purchased a second-hand Italian coffee maker produced in the 1950s, and couldn't find parts, service organisations or even locate the rich history of the Atomic coffee machine that started the beverage revolution that became the Starbucks phenomenon.
Then a neighbour in the precinct told of his problems in using the internet to find what, to me, was a very common line of enquiry for a relatively common product. "How hard should it be", I thought rhetorically, as I once again scribbled out my Four Tips for Newbie Searchers on a piece of scrap paper for the neighbour.
Word and Excel are much, much harder to master than any search engine..
More than a billion people world-wide use MS Word or a word processing package with a similar set of menus and commands. Most of these people know and use at least 15-20 keyboard commands, menu choices or shortcuts to navigate around their word processor of choice - open, close, quit, cut, copy, paste, format, etc, etc. Ditto for Excel or any spreadsheet or database program used by hundreds of millions around the globe.
Learning to search competently is much, much easier than learning Word or Excel.
So, in the never ending search for truth, justice and excellent search results, Zerman On Net presents the revised 2007 version of ....
Four Tips for Newbie Searchers: 'Think, differentiate, learn, visit' 10/2007
Can't find what you're looking for on the internet? Bad results wasting your screen time? Here are four simple tips to reduce the crapola and turn any despairing seeker into a Search God or Goddess.
1. Begin the hunt by spending five minutes developing a search strategy - on paper! Write down important words or phrases, use synonyms and alternative spellings, think concepts, think globally.
2. Understand the difference between search engines and directories. Directories use human editors to organise the web by topic, meaning real people have looked at a wide range of material and decided which provides the "best" information. [Thanks again Bernardo.] Use the editorial strength of directories by visiting the Open Directory Project, Yahoo's directory, the Northern Light Business Research Engine or Wikipedia, for example.
3. At your favourite search engine or portal, look for an area described as Help, Advanced Search or Tips. Within this tutorial area learn the five or six most common search techniques. For example, plus/minus, and/or/not, quote marks or brackets for phrase looking, use of the wildcard (asterisk), capital letters and/or lower case. When you're familiar with these simple techniques and their application at your favorite search engine, celebrate your achievement - EVERY other search engine will have very similar tips or techniques.
4. The world of "searcher education" has improved dramatically in the past six years. Visit sites that teach how to search (via online tutorials) and also provide listings of specialist engines and directories. Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch are both excellent resources to commence your hunt for internet search intelligence.
By the way, here's one way to find the history of, and locate service or parts for a classic, retro 1950s Italian coffee maker.
(Atomic coffee machine) +history +service -nuclear
Basta. But don't get me started on Search Fatigue.
NEWS-ISH: March 2007 (200 words)
Title Tags: 'Keywords, copywriting, character count & brands' 3/2007
The Search Return discussion list, moderated by Detlev Johnson, has recently published a concise five-part primer on the nuances involved when writing the holy grail of organic optimization, Title Tags for Websites.
The series covers text and copywriting ["..... one of the single most valuable things you can do to improve your state of affairs with search engines is to write excellent titles."], character count and the first three words ["The first three words are the ones that users will notice about your listing ... regardless of whether a search engine algorithm gives you credit for this or not, it is highly likely that these words will be most responsible for you getting the click."], keyword repetition ["How a good title can work if all four of the copy-writing, keywords, domain name and title-length are well handled."], and brands in titles ["How to choose whether to include the company name or website in the title and where to put it if you choose to include it."]. The series concludes with a wrapup offering timeless tips for title tag tyros.
Well worth a read.
Better yet, take out a free subscription to this biweekly digest designed to help understand internet search technology.
NEWS-ISH: August 2006 (150 words)
Search Absence: 'Missing The Life' 8/2006
It's been six months now since I've been able to live the life of a contemplative search theorist and practitioner, let alone keep up with the antics on the Yahoo Bodysurfing list or even give good service to the Bodysurfing Australia outfit.
Unsurprisingly, both Google and Yahoo (let alone the tiddlers) have been able to increase their ROI without adopting the Zerman mantra of educate the searcher.
Product offerings of storage, communities, downloads, maps and auctions are constantly expanding by category, thereby maintaining income and earnings. But for the SE business it's incremental ROI only, as posited in the "Wrong Tree" piece.
The big bang in search income and profitability remains to be unleashed, and spending "dosh" on searcher-education is the touchstone.
As the T-shirt asserts, in a variety of guises, It's the searcher, stupid!
NEWS-ISH: July 2005 (150 words)
This month's focus is the iholder portable computer stand.
Portable computing, productivity & work safety: 'Can ergo be sexy?' 7/2005
"Most users of portable and laptop computers achieve reduced levels of productivity because they work in ergonomically unsound environments."
Not a sexy story at first glance. But John Harris and his crew at Impress Media seem to have found an interesting angle. They've posted a media release announcing the availability of the iholder portable computer stand to public sector employees in South Australia (Australia).
Interested parties may request a brochure of the product and its solution. The lightweight PDF (400kb) is a four-colour, four-page brochure containing pix of users, an extensive list of features and benefits, and comprehensive product specifications.
Impress Media represents Internode, Maxamine, Hostworks and a slew of aspring NEWCOMMS in their online and print-oriented media relations.
NEWS-ISH: March 2005 (800 words, two stories)
As the search industry gains traction in the USA, Europe and Australia, it's timely to pose a fundamental question. Will the education of searchers deliver a better return on investment (ROI) for the sector than the incessant registration of search patents?
Search Industry ROI: 'Is the search sector barking up the wrong tree?' 3/2005
For the past ten years, the main game in internet search has been determining the answer to one question, and one question only.
"How do people find what they want on the internet"?
The answer is simple ... most people don't find what they want on the internet. And the reason is equally simple ... most people are not good at search.
There are two opposing forces in action here, the search industry including the engines, and the initiator of the search activity, THE SEARCHER.
The industry has been transformed as an economic entity in ten years, from a cash-guzzling backwater of IT into a cash-cow for a select number of players in a recognizable sector. At the search engines, software engineers and academic researchers are incessantly registering patents over "the next best methodology" for analyzing search requests and delivering relevant results.
The individual searcher, on the other hand, is still best described as clueless in their approach, even though they're slightly less clueless than they used to be.
"Hang on there Michael, that's a bit rough isn't it?"
Not really. Typing two words into a search box is the style of query currently used by a majority of aspiring seekers. That is, searchers are less clueless than in earlier internet times, when the one word search term was used by a majority.
So in 2005 we have ten years of extremely brilliant research and substantial industry investment all trying to ascertain what an ill-educated searcher is looking for. (Ill-educated in search techniques and search efficiency.)
Let's postulate a smattering of voodoo economics designed to reduce the number of researchers, algorithmists and application developers employed in the industry. And we'll reinvest the dollars released on an "Educate the Searcher" campaign.
Just guessing the figures, but here goes.
Say Google, MSN, Yahoo, AOL and Ask Jeeves employ 2000 real smart folk in R&D, applications and engineering at their search operations. At an average annual cost of say US$100000 that's US$200million, give or take a few mill.
A lot of money, I suggest, barking up the wrong tree.
If this headcount of 2000 search employees was halved, US$100million would be freed up for alternative investment. And the tree to be barking up is the searcher, the ill-educated seeker of information, products and services.
It's a big conceptual shift for the industry, a move from knowledge-based teams anticipating customer weaknesses using technical processes and hardwares to a model where the focus is on making the customer more efficient.
For the sector it's an education and marketing project: the client is the search engine industry; the customer is the searcher; the product is the search experience; and the task is to educate the customer into a better experience. Because so frequently, the ill-educated searcher's response is still: "I couldn't really find it, but then I'm not a very good web searcher".
Ultimately it's a question of ROI for the industry and deciding which is the preferred option over the next five years. Spend $100million annually on brain power for incremental growth in income? Or spend $100million educating customers and delivering a dramatic improvement in searches successfully completed.
Michael Zerman is a writer, editor and publishing consultant living in Adelaide, Australia. His Four Tips for Newbie Searchers appeared in September 2001 and he thinks David Crystal's Textonomy is barking up an interesting tree.
Sense & Searchabilty: 'David Byrne & David Crystal keep making sense' 3/2005
It's a long bow to draw, but some people will concoct anything for a headline.
David Byrne, founder of the New York band Talking Heads, recently played Adelaide (Australia) with a four person lineup plus string sextet. Sensational gig, delivered in an intimate 600 person venue with one-third of the repertoire coming from the recent CD, Grown Backwards. Talking Heads were immortalised (really?) in the 1983 film "Stop Making Sense", helmed by Jonathan Demme and often recalled as "The Big Suit" film.
David Crystal, an ontologist and linguist, has recently been granted a US patent for a search technology known as "Textonomy". The gist of this theory and its application to the search field is outlined in the media release announcing the grant. Interesting stuff, best summarised in Crystal's adaptation of a Lewis Carroll homily in the introduction to a paper published on his website: "Take care of the sense and the search engines will take care of themselves".
BodySurfing & LifeSaving: 'Bodysurfers score gold at Aussie Surf LifeSaving champs; 7 network logs 457,000 viewers' 3/2005
Australian network television viewers caught substantial "live bodysurfing coverage" during a six-hour broadcast of the national Surf LifeSaving championships from Queensland's Gold Coast on Sunday 20 March 2005.
Bodysurfing skills and techniques determined the results in four headlining events, the Ironman and Ironwoman's finals (surfski, paddle board, then swim) and the men's and women's open surfswimming races. The championships were held in a difficult 1.5metre swell.
With Australia-wide viewer numbers logged at a peak of 457,000 for the Seven network coverage, it's a reminder of how many Australians are familiar with the concept of bodysurfing - most people in this television audience will have "cracked a wave" at some time in their lives, and many are still doing it regularly.
(First published at the Yahoo Bodysurfing Group .)
NEWS-ISH: January 2004 (400 words)
It's summer in the southern hemisphere and Australia is on vacation.
Bodysurf Stoke: 'Bondi Beach, Port Willunga |WAS| localism & internationalism' 1/2004
Just got back from a fortnight in Sydney, including 10 days enforced apartment-minding at Bondi Beach - tooo, tooo, tough.
It was lovely to be living by the water again, even if only for a week plus; really reminded me how different it is to be a waterperson who goes to the water, in contrast to one who lives at/by/on the water. Even tho' we bang on about "bodysurf this", "wave that", it's so, so different to be a local living at the break.
Anyway, I obviously haven't been getting enough "quality beach time", let alone enough BSing time.
I could barely be bothered leaving Bondi, although one day we tooled down south to Maroubra to see if the Bra Boys are as tough as their PR claims. They looked like they were, so we didn't do much other than act like wacky beach visitors from out of town.
The best thing about seeing Bondi on a hot (for Sydney, mild by Adelaide) mid-summer's day is the sheer number of peeps bodysurfing.
Albeit, most of them in a totally half-assed and unformed way.
But at Bondi Beach with 20,000-50,000 people on the sand, you see a great example of that big discussion point about BSing as a high-performance and skillful art/sport VERSUS the mass immersion of moving bodies in Pacific (and other) coastal environments where there is a mass swimming culture.
It was great.
While there wasn't much swellage happening there was always a wave of sorts, 90% of the days.
Different from my notional homebeach (Port Willunga) here in South Oz - where the swell is so infrequent that hardly anyone of the irregular beach goers has a sense of themselves as "moving-water people".
Anyway, if the crew at the Guinness Book of Records wanted a site for an attempt at the world mass bodysurfing record (WMBR), Bondi Beach over Xmas/New Year could be a potential venue, I suggest. Of course they'd have to follow up, immediately, with a visit to Pipeline for the Bodysurf Classic event to get a complementary listing for the world's most extreme bodysurfing record (WMEBR).
Don't mix them up amigos.
(First published at the Yahoo Bodysurfing Group .)
NEWS-ISH: December 2003 (400 words)
A brief note to welcome John Farr back to the world of the MacLiving and our selection of Xmas Bodysurf Books.
Xmas Bodysurf Books: 'Everyone's doing a list' 12/2003
There are a number of worthwhile online reads for bodysurfers with a bit of timeout on the horizon.
Chris Robinson's Moonriding at Pipeline is a brief explosion of amazed prose, including an appreciation of Kelly Slater's prowess off the board and using fins.
The years of the Great Dotcom Editorial Splurge enabled the ambitious Surfline site to have staff writers develop a bodysurfing feature, BodyArt , and file competition reports from the World Bodysurfing Championships, Pure Stoke .
Bodysurfing fiction is less common online, however the Bodysurfing Bushranger tale links Australian 19th century history, and the outlaw Ned Kelly, to the current race for the world surfing title - WCT of the ASP.
Finally, the best (and only) print publication in 30 years is Laurent Masurel and Hugo Verlomme's 'BodySurf - the Origins of Surf'. The pix are terrific, the book is 300 pages with full-colour throughout while the text is in French. Buying it online appears to be a chore but do persist, perhaps with Amazon France - the book will give much pleasure. Published by Atlantica, ISBN 2-84394-476-7.
John Farr Resurfaces: 'Former Applelinks senior editor, John Farr, has resurfaced at MyMac.com' 12/2003
Farr's unexplained disappearance from his longterm incumbency at the Applelinks website had some readers squealing and conspiracy theorists blaming, variously, Apple Computer, The Irish and The NeoCons (all factions) for his absence.
One serial whinger wrote: "I was a fan of his writing style and content, feeling that it added depth to the generally bland world of IT reportage. More importantly, it reiterated the speculative, wacky and farout side of computing and the infoworld that is lacking in many publications, both on- and off-line. Simply put, there's a place in the firmament of financial success for linking-sites, advertising-only sites, serious-content sites and other models of the publishing/editorial/advertising mix. And that success model includes writers such as Andy Inhatko, Bob LeVitus and John Farr."
Anyway, Farr's back in that rat's arse publishing niche described as the "MacWeb", thanks awfully to Tim Robertson at Mymac.com . Farr's other writings are available at JHFarr.com , while Fotofeed.com delivers gorgeous daily pix from the highlands of New Mexico, USA.
NEWS-ISH: September 2003(1200 words)
We're back on the bus, following 12 months close focus on the "widget" project. Suffice to say that portable computer sales continue their upward trend, rising from 19 million units sold in 1999 to a projected 35+ million sales this year. That's a 90% increase in four years, with more to come.
Next to a roundup of our fave topics - internet search, bodysurfing, on-line editorial content, economics of the search industry plus the inevitable Odds'n'Ends.
Search strategies: 'Conference, newsletters & tutorials' 9/2003
Conference Report - the Search Engine Strategies conference-circus-publishing combo rolled in to San Diego last month as part of its international touring schedule. SES's success in cross-selling conference content with its on-line publishing arms, SearchEngineWatch and SearchDay, provides an insight into the transition between off-line, on-line, downloadable publishing - and face to face chat. From the conference dance floor, Andy Beal reports.
SearchDay - a free daily newsletter from SEWatch is one of three offerings from this outfit. The authors are reliable, with good editing and comprehensive news sniffing. If you're really hot-to-trot in the sector, buying the full annual subscription at US$100 is all you'll ever need.
Web Searching - want to sharpen your Internet searching skills? A series of "teach yourself" tutorials developed by subject and information experts offers a first-rate learning experience for novices and experts alike.
International bodysurfing update: 'Yahoo chatlist, Mexico contest, Pipeline/Oceanside results and pix' 9/2003,
The international Bodysurfing Chat list has migrated to Yahoo Groups , where a motley crew from California meets serial emailers from Brazil, Australia, Europe and Hawaii to discuss "secret spots", the "best fins (or flippers) for bodysurfing", how to "combat middle-ear infections" and much, much more.
Arroyo BodySurf Festival is happening at Playa Zicatella in Puerto Escondido - Oaxaca, Mexico - from Oct 6-11, 2003 with approval from Oaxaca's Director of Tourism.
World Bodysurfing Championship - results from Oceanside's 2003 contest have been posted, and David Lane's digital films from the event are online and downloadable. Warning - bandwidth heavy material here.
Pipeline's Bodysurf Classic is slugging it out with 12 water-based events for a slot on Hawaii's North Shore during the northern hemisphere's winter swell period, December 2003 to February 2004. The 2003 contest was won by all-time wizard of the "sponge" Mike Stewart , beating out the best big wave bodysurfers to take his tenth (or is it his eleventh, twelfth or thirteenth?) gong at the world's most extreme (oxymoron) bodysurfing contest. Photos of the 2003 Pipe Contest are available for viewing online, courtesy of Mark Berkowitz and NorthShore Power Portfolios. Click here for the photo galleries . It's a bit of a wait, but worth it for the views.
The best commercially-produced videos of bodysurfing are made by Thom Lynch, and are available from his Big Wave Bodysurfing Videos website.
Search industry economics: 'Consolidation via M&A' 9/2003
The past twelve months have seen the consolidation of the search sector gather speed. Second and third tier players have acquired, and been acquired. Most participants have chosen between enterprise search or the "retail" model. Tier one portals have scrambled on to the M&A bandwagon.
Here's a selection from the transaction roster over the past nine months: March 2003 - Yahoo completes Inktomi takeover; April 2003 - Overture completes purchase of AltaVista and FAST; July 2003 - Yahoo agrees to buy Overture following nine months of on-off negotiation; September 2003 - US regulators approve Yahoo/Overture deal.
Phew - it's been hot and the sector appears ripe for further consolidation.
Bruce Clay's chart of the US scene is worth it's weight, Danny Sullivan's article from July gives a rundown of the various search industry perspectives , while a retrospective piece looks at the rise and fall of popular search engines over the past ten years. May well bring a tear to the eye of a confirmed searcher.
Online news content: 'US & UK surveys' 9/2003
US: Washingtonpost.com is based on newspaper content, CNN is based on cable TV content, Yahoo is based on aggregated news feeds, and Google News is a digest that links to stories offsite. Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, spoke to Mark Glaser of the Online Journalism Review about how the ratings service categorises sites, why Google News was missing, and how its measurement services stack up.
"It does get to be a little confusing," Bloom said. "We have a category called News and Information and then a subcategory called Current Events and Global News. When you ask where does something fit within a category you need to have a good understanding about what you're being told if you talk to companies like us, with a number of hierarchies and how we organize our information....."
UK: "This is the future of online newspapers" writes Kieren McCarthy in an examination of the strategies adopted by The Guardian, BBC, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Independent to make money from news on the Web. McCarthy, a stalwart of UK's The Register concludes, "The end of universal free news content has finally come".
Odds'n'Ends: 'Moore's Law, info retrieval and Rare Trades' 9/2003
The Lives and Death of Moore's Law - Moore's Law has been an important benchmark for developments in microelectronics and information processing for over 30 years. Contrary to popular claims, it appears that the common versions of Moore's Law have not been valid during the last decades. Moore's Law is becoming an increasingly misleading predictor of future developments.
After the Dot-Bomb - Marcia Bates writes: "In the excitement of the 'dot-com' rush of the 1990's, many Web sites were developed that provided information retrieval capabilities poorly or sub-optimally. 'Content' has been treated like a kind of soup that 'content providers scoop out of pots and dump wholesale into information systems. But it does not work that way. Good information retrieval design requires just as much expertise about information and systems of information organization as it does about the technical aspects of systems."
Rare Trades - Author/photographer Mark Thomson delves into the history of rare trades and the lives of the tradesmen who preserve them to uncover a wealth of special tools, unique traditions and secrets. Rare Trades pays tribute to the skilled manual work of the haystack maker, the wheelwright, the cooper, the tinsmith and many more.
"The nature of work is changing. We no longer use our hands to make things. Human hands, capable of making objects of great utility and beauty, are now used to dial phones or press computer keys. We feel that loss keenly. On weekends, hardware stores fill with people satisfying a deep urge to do something practical and useful."
Other titles by Mark Thomson include Blokes and Barbies, Blokes and Sheds, Meat Metal Fire, Stories From the Shed, The Complete Blokes and Sheds. And of course, "Welcome to The Big Backyard", the website of the Australasian Institute of Backyard Studies .
Finally, happy birthday Maria.
NEWS-ISH: August 2002
Maps abound on the internet - here are are two for topology freaks, plus the gentle sound of search terms clashing in "The Seven Deadly Nyms". And a headsup for this year's Flipper Fest, USA.
Search Topology: 'Charts, maps and traffic feeds' 8/2002
The arcane world of search engine traffic feeds (and thus profitability) is a shifting mudmap of competition, co-operation and co-dependence. Two independent search marketing firms, one in New York City (USA) and one in Sydney (Australia), have produced search engine relationship charts outlining the significant players in this field. Bruce Clay 's map of the US scene is well matched by Sinewave 's chart of Australian SE feeds. You vant results? Looka dees mapz.
Stop Words: 'The Seven Deadly Nyms' 8/2002
Stopwords are those tinys such as "the", "as" and "it" that search engines ignore when we use them in our search queries. They're piffle as search fluff when compared to the Seven Deadly Nyms that play havoc with our search results. "Virtuous searching" is Chris Sherman 's aim in this humourous riff on contranyms, heteronyms, polynyms and more.
Bodysurf travel: 'Start your flippers' 8/2002
Australian bodysurfers need to redeem their Ansett Airlines frequent flyer points immediately if they're planning to compete in this year's World Bodysurfing Championships in California. Venue is the Oceanside Pier, dates are 16-18 August 2002, the website's slow-loading and Mac-unfriendly, sigh!!
NEWS-ISH: June 2002
Every web surfer receives unwanted email offerings - now search engines are getting bombarded by unscrupulous SEOs. Timely international release of hot bodysurfing video from Hawaii's Point Panic. Bernado Huberman is one of the academic internet industry's best thinkers. Read his book!!
Search Police: 'The algorithm is mightier than the spam' 6/2002
Most internet surfers receive unwanted email communications, or spam, on a regular basis. But it's not just individuals succumbing to the firepower of the 'email driveby' (TM).
Our trusted search engines and directories (Google, Inktomi, Looksmart, ODP) receive up to half a million units of junk mail every day. Not surprisingly, they don't like it much either.
So the engines have decided to, drum roll, bring on the SPAM Police.
The industry sector we know as search engine marketing and optimisation (SEM or SEO) contains a significant number of unscrupulous operators who promise self-marketers they'll get any site listed in thousands of engines, directories and linking sites. And subsequently drive h-e-a-p-s of traffic to that site. Whee-hoo.
However, I'd suggest a quick read of Shari Thurow's articles, The Search Engine Spam Police , before signing on for any unbelievable offers. It may help dissuade the naive from committing the equivalent of internet harakiri.
And for those whose terms of art include redirects, cloaking, hidden text, link farming, affiliate spam, automated positioning queries and doorway pages ... I say. Don't bother, give up.
The algorithm is mightier than the spam.
Laws of The Web: 'Patterns in the Ecology of Information' 6/2002
Despite its haphazard growth, the Web hides powerful underlying regularities - from the organisation of its links to the patterns found in its use by millions of websurfers. In Laws of the Web (MIT Press), Bernardo Huberman explains in accessible language how his seminal research revealed that the surfing patterns of individuals are describable by precise laws. Read this book and discover why 3.6 clicks is too much!!
Bodysurfing Video: 'Warm water, hot bodysurfing' 6/2002
It's winter in the southern hemisphere, and the water's cold, grey and sharky - time to get those video and DVD machines cranked up. Ray Balderama from Hawaii's Point Panic bodysurfing club has produced a fine 30 minute video which is a high performance, wave riding clinic for bodysurfers. The footage is hypnotic, there are insane air spin moves and handboarding features along with paipo riding. The tape comes in NTSC and DVD formats priced at US$15 plus shipping - order directly from the filmmaker, Ray Balderama, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
[Can't get enough taped action? Hawaii's other bodysurfing location, the Banzai Pipeline, is featured at Thom Lynch's BodysurfingVideo site]
NEWS-ISH: May 2002
French publishing, strategic thinking, internet search and waterpix take our fancy this month.
Publishing: 'Bodysurf - the origins of surfing' 5/2002
This is the first book on Bodysurfing published since 1972. Hugo Verlomme and Laurent Masurel's new title is due for June release in French, with an English translation possible by August 2002. Three hundred images including 80 colour photos, extensive history, anthropology and mythology plus wild tales from watermen and women make up the 300 pager. It's currently in production in Biarritz, where the colour pics are getting a big thumbs-up from the local printers - always a good sign.
Search Strategies: 'Advanced search engine optimisation' 5/2002
Australia's harbour city, Sydney, is the next international location for the Search Engine Strategies conference and expo, running June 11-12 at the Dockside, Cockle Bay. Search engine analyst, journalist and publisher, Danny Sullivan, is the moderator of the affair which is THE EVENT for the sector in Australia in 2002.
Search Tools: 'What did you say way back when?' 5/2002
The WayBack Machine is a marvellous tool that enables the recovery and viewing of 'disappeared' online materials from earlier web times. It's a great public service provided by the Web Archive organisation. For example, from the annals of the deceased Upside Today magazine, we can again follow the antics of venture capitalists desperately hunting down monetisation models for the online search industry - they're Still Looking .
Photography: 'How DID she do that?' 5/2002
West coast USA surf snapper Ron Romanosky has launched an online site with multiple water-oriented imagery. Check out the bodysurfing photo gallery .
Search Awards: 'And the winner is ... ' 5/2002
SearchEngineWatch is a well respected website that confers annual awards including best engine, best paid placement and most web-friendly design. Elevated to the Hall of Fame for 2002 were AltaVista and the Open Directory Project, while Google took a slew of gongs, again. Full details at Clickz . Incidentally, this author's recent article 'Four Tips for Newbie Searchers' has also been getting a few upticks.
NEWS-ISH: March 2002
Monetization in the search sector, pro surfing, South Australian gossip and Hawaii's ultimate bodysurfing contest.
Monetization: 'Can internet search pay dividends?' 3/2002
International search directory LookSmart reports its fiscal 2001 results revealing the company's first profitable quarter (by quaint US standards) since its IPO two years ago, acquires a San Francisco based search engine (WiseNut) mooted as a serious Google competitor and then signs a strategic alliance with Australia's Yellow Pages - phew, a big month for the Lookies.
Pro surfing: 'Bells Beach, online internet coverage & women's bodyboard' 3/2002
Opening events of the 2002 world pro surfing tour (WCT) include the RipCurl Pro at Bells Beach, Australia - hit their Oz site and ring that Bell, it's a hoot. Online video and audio coverage of all WCT events in 2002 is available at ASPworldTour.com courtesy of the Association of Surfing Professionals while daily journalistic endeavour is on tap via Surfline , the thinking surfer's preferred editorial option. Women's Pipeline BodyBoarding event rocks Hawaii's north shore, with victory to Australian competitor, Kira Llewellyn .
South Australia: 'State election kefuffle and arts festival fiasco' 3/2002
Regional election in South Australia results in social democratic victory after a three-week kerfuffle; Adelaide Festival of Arts succumbs to the wiles of short-armed Californian hippy (and undercover orange-person), Peter Sellars: "dud bash this year, atmosphere saved by the festival Fringe and three indie producers", says Michael Zerman.
Bodysurf competition: 'Hawaii's Pipeline hosts extreme event' 3/2002
The Pipeline BodySurf Classic 2002 had top flight professional hardboard surfers competing (Curren, Machado, Slater, more) but the ever-reliable Mike Stewart and Mark Cunningham take the dosh again.
NEWS-ISH: December 2001 - February 2002
The southern hemisphere rolls into summer, releasing langourous pheromones that embrace Australian holiday makers. This month's NEWS-ISH celebrates the coast and beach with a 400 word fictional account of 19th century Australian surfing history. Plus a brief mention of 'Visions of the Australian Coast', a coffee-table book with gorgeous pics and literate words. Enjoy.
Fiction: 'The Bodysurfing Bushranger OR How six-times world surfing champion, Kelly Slater, acquired his name' 12/2001
And so to Ned Kelly, winner of the 2001 Booker Prize for literature , awarded posthumously for his book, 'True History of the Kelly Gang'. The novel was co-ghost written by Australian standup surfer Peter Carey who recently accepted the award on Kelly's behalf in London.
Kelly was one of the earliest recorded bodysurfing bushrangers in Australian mid-colonial history, the 1860s onward. Most bushrangers (outlaws) of the period preferred hard boards to the simple pleasures of bodysurfing, but Kelly, always rebellious, fought Australian police for the right to bodysurf without infringement notices being issued. Kelly was particularly outraged at the delivery of court summonses while bank robberies were in progress.
[NOTE: Australian bushrangers (outlaws) robbed banks for travel money to get to the coastal beaches, as public transport was quite limited in the 19th century in Australia's south-eastern corner. Excess funds from the holdups were distributed to poor farmers for the purchase of surfboard blanks (trees) which enabled their teenage children to leave the land and a life of poor farming.]
Like other oppressed bodysurfers, Kelly came to a grisly end, being hung in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1880s.
His contribution to international surfing has been recognised over the past thirty years, particularly since 1992 with a name change by then upcoming American surf prodigy, Ned Slater. Slater's first major competition year (1992) included the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Australia, a location only 200 kilometres from the site of bushranger Ned Kelly's most famous final shootout and showdown.
When Slater was informed of Ned Kelly's contribution to the waveriding world, he initiated a complex name changing procedure of statutory declarations, civil lodgement of documents and IRS negotiations. By the end of 1992, all legal and US government requirements had been satisfied.
Ned Slater was thus able to accept the first of six world surfing titles under his new name, Kelly Slater, chosen in homage to the first Australian bodysurfing bushranger.
Accompanying photo - 19th Century Wetsuit , possibly worn by the Bodysurfing Bushranger, Ned Kelly, at his last stand at Glenrowan, Victoria, Australia. Please note the early adoption of head guards, now quite common at Hawaii's Pipeline and other big wave venues.
Photography: 'Visions of the Australian Coast' 12/2001
'Visions of the Australian Coast' is a 120 page dream-inducing summer book offering. Coasties of all persuasions will marvel at the photographs, while beach readers can find excerpts by writers, musicians and poets, including DH Lawrence's take on littoral Australia. Bookshoppers need to know that Morrison Media is the publisher and Nick Carroll is the editor/writer. Online purchasers may use the online transaction facilities of Morrisson Media to obtain their XMAS joy.
Good surfing, mas olas, thanks for reading during 2001 - Michael Zerman.
NEWS-ISH: November 2001
The last update was a bit logorrheic at 950 words, so we'll keep it brief this time. Missed the September NEWS-ISH? It's a fair read and includes Four Tips for Newbie Searchers. Just scroll down, por favor.
Search strategies: 'Joy of searching revealed' 11/2001
Put 50 minutes aside, set the coffee bubbling and print out Gary Price's excellent twelve pager from Searcher magazine. Five asterisk rated.
Internet traffic: 'Six degrees of separation explained' 11/2001
The way traffic is routed on the Internet is not as precise as it could be. A new model by researchers at Stanford University simulates information flows, thereby unveiling the principles behind the six- degrees-of-separation experiment.
Knowledge Management: 'Taxonomies are chic' 11/2001
Many information professionals argue that a taxonomy is nothing more than another name, albeit more fashionable, for a thesaurus or classification scheme. Australian writer Liz Edols thinks otherwise.
Handboarding: 'The less-loved child of Moana' 11/2001
Ten minutes walk from Hawaii's famous Waikiki Beach lies Point Panic, home to the Redwings Championship of Handboarding. In the pantheon of marginalised sporting competitions, handboards exist as a subset of the bodysurfing world. Results here , pics here , handboard library here .
NEWS-ISH: September 2001
This month News-ish features the controversy over paid inclusion in search engines, delivers a roundup of the international bodysurfing scene, notes briefly the benefits of language translation via the internet and offers Four Tips for Newbie Searchers. Not necessarily in that order.
Search strategies: 'Content, not black magic' 9/2001
If it's August it must be Search Engine Strategies time in San Francisco. Excellent conference coverage as always from Websearch , and a funky account of the event from Steve Murrell in 'Content, not black magic' .
Translation: 'You talking to me?' 9/2001
While researching a Brazilian site published in Portuguese, I remembered the usefulness of online mechanical translators, the non-human variety. They're rough but give the gist of the material, particularly if you're viewing a subject area that's familiar.
Try the simple service at Dictionary.com or check out the language resources at Babelfish .
Webby Awards: 'Five words only, por favor' 9/2001
In the declasse world of internet awards, the Webbys stumble along as the digerati's attempt at wanabee Oscars. The major innovation of the Webbys is the requirement that acceptance speeches be limited to five words - yep that's numeral five (5).
The surf portal Swell took the dosh in the sports category. With typical surfie aplomb , their editor-in-chief directed his quintet at the wig-wearing presenter, thus: 'Sam Donaldson, dude, gnarly toupee'.
International bodysurfing update: 'Contest results, history, video, TSJ and RealPlayer clips' 9/2001
'Tribal gathering' was the vibe at the 2001 World Bodysurfing Championships held at California's Oceanside Pier, results here . An online report, Pure Stoke , was supplemented by newspaper coverage in the North County Times and the San Diego Tribune plus locally broadcast TV.
The Brazilian site Surfe de Pieto (literally chest-surfing) has published a four-part article on the history of bodysurfing . Well researched and illustrated, non-Portuguese speakers can get a passable sense of the content by using the translation facility at Dictionary.com .
Tom Lynch's newest video release, Pure Blue, showcases the extreme aspects of bodysurfing as exhibited at Hawaii's Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic. 'Highly recommended' and 'Four flipper rating' were two responses at the world premiere last month. The vid is available in all international tape formats from BodysurfingVideo.
The Surfers Journal is a serious, glossy magazine whose summer issue carries Hal Handley's wild, wild story of bodysurfing Fort Point , a treacherous break beneath San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge.
Random Films produced the unfortunately departed WedgeTV site where two movies in RealPlayer format were formerly posted. BlackBall Memories was a one minute and thirty second stream taking about 20 minutes for the high-res 4MB download at 56k. Well worth the wait.
Four Tips for Newbie Searchers: 'Think, differentiate, learn, visit' 9/2001
Can't find what you're looking for on the internet? Bad results wasting your screen time? Here are four simple tips to reduce the crapola and turn any despairing seeker into a Search God or Goddess. (Is that G case sensitive? Is it an alphabetical letter or a character?)
1. Begin the hunt by spending five minutes developing a search strategy - on paper! Write down important words or phrases, use synonyms and alternative spellings, think concepts, think globally.
2. Understand the difference between directories and search engines. Directories use human editors to organise the web by topic. Use the editorial strength of directories as directories, NOT as search engines. Visit the Open Directory Project , Yahoo or Looksmart .
3. At your favourite search engine, look for the area described as Help, Advanced Search or Tips. Within this tutorial area learn five or six common search techniques. For example, plus/minus, and/or/not, quote marks or brackets for phrase looking, use of the wildcard (asterisk), capital letters and/or lower case. When you're familiar with these terms at your fave engine or directory, EVERY other search engine will have very similar tips or techniques. Use them.
4. Visit sites that teach how to search (via online tutorials) and provide listings of specialist engines and directories. SearchIQ is an excellent resource for beginners, while SearchEngineWatch is the high-point of internet search intelligence.
Controversy: 'Search engines and paid inclusion' 9/2001
The shite hit the algorithm when Ralph Nader's consumer advocacy organisation, Commercial Alert, filed a complaint against eight major US search engines in July. Nader's beef to the Federal Trade Commission alleged rigged results and deceptive practices, bringing to the surface musings and conundrums that had been facing the search industry since the TechWreck of April 2000.
JD Lasica of the Online Journalism Review wondered if the jig was up in Search Engines and Editorial Integrity . Deborah Bogle's piece in Australia's national daily, Paid placements transform searches , adopted a similarly unnerved tone, while plumping for Google and its integrity.
Danny Sullivan, the thinking searcher's search-object, provided an insight into the volatility of the biz in The Evolution of Paid Inclusion . And online magazine Upside Today ('we cover key business issues and trends affecting high-tech companies'), attempted a rigorous fiscal analysis of the sector ('He's joking folks, it's the internet economy'). Follow venture capitalists desperately hunting down monetisation models and industry profitability in Still Looking.
(Oops - I shouldn't have bagged the Upside mag. It's gone down the gurgler and the site's disappeared. But the Upside article is available again thanks to the wonderful services of The WayBack Machine provided by the Web Archive organisation.)
NEWS-ISH (July 2001): Thirty-nine thousand members of Free Pint, the UK-based online community of information researchers, receive a fortnightly newsletter dedicated to finding quality and reliable business information on the Internet. Free Pint's founder, William Hann, carries the heavyweight title of European Special Librarian of the Year for 2000/2001, awarded for his contribution to the information industry through the founding of Free Pint. They've just published a comprehensive index of major features from the past four years, and as they're researchers, of course it's also in freely searchable text!!
Searchday is a really helpful newsletter containing web search news, reviews, tips and search engine headlines. The editor, Chris Sherman, delivers a Week in Review wrapup each Friday. Browse back issues online, or subscribe to the newsletter here .
BodyArt is 1800 words of informed editorial coverage and swell pics from a major online surf portal. That's the Art of Bodysurfing we're talking about, not the BodyArt movement that originated via New York and German performance pieces a few artwaves ago. And a little reminder that online entry forms are now available for August's World Bodysurfing Championships, at Oceanside Beach, California. Bodysurfers, start your flippers.
NEWS-ISH (June 2001): Who would have thunk it? It's taken three years, hundreds of employees (now mostly retrenched), many, many dollars and numerous false starts. But Rupert Murdoch's Australian flagship, News Limited, finally has its online properties working. The most significant resources are the national daily newspaper, The Australian , and the Newstext searchable database of papers from the UK, NZ and Australia, some dating back to 1985.
"They're gnarlier watermen than anyone" (Hey, I'm sure that was waterpersons.) This site's publisher visited Australia's Bells Beach over the April easter weekend for the first round of the 2001 professional surfing tour. Mick Fanning, winner of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells, raised guffaws from the reptiles of the press at his post-victory media conference when he snorted "What's bodysurfing?" in reply to a question about training regimes. Well here's one answer , which also includes a few tips for the 19 year-old Fanning from six-times world champ, Kelly Slater .
Designing for Search Engines and Creativity: Shirley Kaiser's tutorial suggests successful search engine placement, (and consequently, excellent referred traffic results), doesn't require the sacrifice of appealing design. Take time to read Shirley's comprehensive tute and learn how to design around content, not vice versa.
Web coolth: Yes we don't like it very often , but sometimes it's worth the wait for that download. From the surf portal at Swell.com, we suggest checking out Clocked at Sunset Beach . It's one of the better exemplars of multimedia editorial production, has bells and whistles all over the shop, and, gosh, "it's simply marvellous".
Finally, the 2001 World Bodysurfing Championships are inked in for mid-August at Oceanside Beach, California, and entry forms are now available online. Bodysurfers, start your flippers.
NEWS-ISH (March 2001): Danny Sullivan, a doyen of the search engine industry, writes a two-parter with punch. First, The End for Search Engines looks at the rise and fall of directories and engines between 1995 and 1998. Part two, The Long-Term Strategy for Survival examines the decline of portals and the recent ascendance of paid-listings, paid-submission, and paid-inclusion programs. A pair of must-read articles for anyone interested in internet traffic harvesting.
Surf anyone? Our tip is for Swell.com to dominate the online surf sites - that's surfing in water, not surfing via electrons. Following its launch in October 2000, Swell.com covered the major Hawaiian events with streaming video, webcams, daily news and features plus results in realtime. The site hired editorial stars from mainstream surf publications all over the oceans, grabbed a posse of hotshot surf photogs and has shown a content delivery system that's, well, "simply marvellous". After three rounds of venture funding (including two since the TechWreck of April 2000), the major surf industry manufacturers are now supporting the site.
[January 2002 update: In November 2001 the editorial side of Swell became the Surfline.com site, while the on-line shop continued as Swell.com.]
Tokyo, naturally. Where does art meet industrial design to produce "gorgeous" computer peripherals? Tokyo, naturally. I'd suggest a trip to the id EastEnd site to see exactly what Hirokatz Komatz has been producing.
NEWS-ISH (February 2001): Search Engine Watch award winners include Google, Ixquick and Dogpile, while Yahoo and the Open Directory Project are inducted into a Hall of Fame. We're pleased to recommend the Academy of Web Specialists for excellent on-line training in search engine optimisation. Venture developers stay tuned - TwoEyes is about to hit the streets. The publisher is interviewed by a Brazilian bodysurfing site, John Farr's columns continue to amuse us and a tip for navigating Tokyo.
NEWS-ISH (October 2000): Report from the recent Search Engines Strategies 2000 conference held in San Francisco, results of a major international bodysurfing contest and a useful account of getting digital photos onscreen using a Nikon CoolPix 950.
Publishing Consulting: our background is in specialist print publishing, from Rolling Stone magazine in the 70s, technology, comms and broadcasting in the 80s through to legal publishing and educational marketing in the 90s.
We've been electronic since 1995, so we can advise on publishing models, editorial branding, content development and the all-important question of distribution.
Internet marketing: our editorial experience gives us the edge in providing services to web designers, site builders and independent clients seeking a webhaus. Advice on search engine friendly design, prototyping and user testing, SE optimisation strategies, site launches, media relations and linking campaigns are just six of our BIG 10 in internet marketing.
Communication strategies: we conduct media and communication campaigns both on-line and off-line; corporate and financial PR, professional services marketing, media relations and event management are in our bag of tricks.
Bodysurfing and Handboards: the secret world of bodysurfing is probably the last extreme sport still untouched by major corporate marketers. Handboards - an even more marginal selling proposition.
Associates: thanks to everyone at ISM, Ruciak Pty Ltd, Bill Nicholas, Aboriginal Australia, Mark Thomson (author of Blokes and Sheds), Anthony Coles and all the rest of youse.
Image Bank: if Christo Reid gets his fantastic library of images on line, and Ian de Gruchy decides to let the rest of the world see his giant building projections via the WWW, Art Projections will be the gateway.
Legals: copyright notices and the usual disclaimers.
Local Traffic: Adelaide's East End area is stylish, probably overly hip and has great food in many cuisines. We work here and live nearby because a local village works well in a global environment.
Oaxaca: Mexico's southern state, Oaxaca, is one of the great, seriously great, destinations of the New World (as the colonists of Europe described it centuries ago). The capital, also named Oaxaca, is divine and down on the Pacific coast, Puerto Escondido is one of the best surfing locations anywhere.
Resources: soon you'll hear about iholder.com and powerholder.com.
Who we are: Former rock'n'roll editors staying electronic.
Contact: Michael Zerman