The Year in Search

December 20, 2009

As the end of the year rolls around, I find it interesting to look at the things people have been searching for on the web. Each search engine has their own list, so let’s take a look at the data for 2009.

Google:

1. michael jackson
2. facebook
3. tuenti
4. twitter
5. sanalika
6. new moon
7. lady gaga
8. windows 7
9. dantri.com.vn
10. torpedo gratis

Yahoo!:

1. Michael Jackson
2. Twilight
3. WWE
4. Megan Fox
5. Britney Spears
6. Naruto
7. American Idol
8. Kim Kardashian
9. NASCAR
10. Runescape

Bing:

1. Michael Jackson
2. Twitter
3. Swine Flu
4. Stock Market
5. Farrah Fawcett
6. Patrick Swayze
7. Cash for Clunkers
8. Jon and Kate Gosselin
9. Billy Mays
10. Jaycee Dugard

The first thing that jumps out at me in this data is that the only item that transcended all three lists was Michael Jackson. Certainly part of this is the methodology that the search engines are using to tabulate this data, and all of them are using “trending” topics. As you might guess, searches for things like Youtube or pornography are going to have relatively consistent growth on a year to  year basis.

The terms that made two lists were Twitter and Twilight/New Moon. It is certainly remarkable the growth that Twitter has had this year. It has certainly created a lot of public awareness in a short time. It will interesting to see if it remains a trend in 2010.

One interesting difference between the Google and Bing lists are the number of tech-related searches on Google versus the number of “obituary”-related searches on Bing. Bing has four celebrities who had died in the past year on its list while Google has arguably 7 different technology related results. TechCrunch Europe has an interesting entry on why Sanalika appears. Tuenti is the Spanish version of Facebook. Dantri.com.vm is a Vietnamese newspaper. Torpedo Gratis is a Portuguese site that allows you to send free text messages.

One thing you can certainly take from Google’s list is it’s international appeal. Techcrunch also argues that most international users will simply use Google over the address bar or bookmarks to get to particular websites.

Are there any interesting trends or notes that you’ve spotted? Let me know in the comments.


Grammar Rules for Twitter (Eventually)

June 6, 2009

Since it’s been almost two months since I’ve talked about microblogging site Twitter, I suppose it is time to go to the old war horse again. This time I want to discuss the language and grammar of Twitter and how with the help of a new non-profit could actually become codified.

On the Get Satisfaction message boards for Twitter I had posted a call for a Twitter grammar guide, or at least some official guidelines from the company. After a couple of bumps to get the subject noticed a friendly fellow user added what she had done as a presentation for work to get her company on board with Twitter. While it was a nice gesture and I agree with her conclusions, it lacked the official response for which I was hoping.

To quote her response here:

“I made this for a presentation at work:

Twitter = Platform
Twit = One who Tweets
Tweet = What the Twit is doing
Tweeps = Your favorite Twits
Tweeted = What the Twit did

“A twit is one who tweets on Twitter with their Tweeps” “

While I’m not very keen on Twit being someone who Tweets, the logical alternatives I’ve come up with aren’t very good either. (Twitterer? Tweeter? Twitter user?)

It is worth mentioning that this is not merely a semantic exercise as you can see how the grammar of Twitter can lead to embarrassment in this Stephen Colbert appearance on Today.

So what will save us from this grammatical abyss? A wiki, of course. The Microsyntax organization is hoping to solve these issues with their new wiki at http://microsyntax.pbworks.com/.  This wiki is a bit different from something like Wikipedia in that they are hoping that discussion will take place in the background before edits of people’s pages are done. I fear that this model may stifle the growth of the page, as I wonder how many people are going to be interested in doing the work necessary to succeed in “identifying, researching and finding consensus on information syntax.”

I do wish them luck, though and since they did get a posting about the effort on TechCrunch that may go a long way in getting them the attention they need to make this a success.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments and if you want to follow me, I’m @dustin_gervais on the site.


Twitter Can’t Contain Us

April 5, 2009

As I’ve discussed before, (here and here in an exciting two-part series) I’m a bit conflicted about the microblogging service Twitter. On the one hand, such a small amount of content is allowed, that it is hard to make any coherent point. Yet, on the other hand the constant dripping of information as a whole does seem to have some sort of value. What the value is, however, is harder to quantify. As I start to consider this more, I hope to be able to offer better answers to this issue.

With this post, I want to let you know about an interesting Twitter tool that will help you get a little more content into your Tweets.

(By the way, I’ve created a Get Satisfaction post about the grammar of Twitter, which I would encourage you to get involved in, if such things interest you. Get Satisfaction is a new forum/customer service tool that many websites are starting to use, and may justify a later post on its own.)

This tool is called 140it at 140it.com. (It’s too bad they weren’t able to get the Italian domain 140.it.) It is actually pretty simple. You input the text you wish to shorten to 140 characters. It churns through it taking out vowels and using numbers for particular sounds until you get something that is 140 characters.

This is a test to see how much I can get into this silly thing before my tweet becomes to long. Then it will really be ridiculous because it will be represented a lot more characters.

Becomes

This is a tst 2 see how mch I can get in2 ths slly thng b4 my twt bcms 2 lng. Then it’ll rly be rdcls bc it’ll be rprsntd a lot mr chrctrs.

And

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Becomes

4 scr & 7 yrs ago our fthrs brght frth on ths cntnnt, a new ntn, cncvd in Liberty, & ddctd 2 the proposition that all men are created equal.

It is actually very impressive to see how relatively readable these statements are with out vowels. Continent, conceived and more do get the short shrift on this kind of shortening. Of course, you are only going to save about 40-50 characters at the most by using this, so you can’t put the whole Gettysburg Address in there as I tried to do the first time. The amount of additional content that 40-50 characters can give you is not insignificant, if you know your readers will puzzle it out.

There is something to be said for correct spelling, so multiple tweets may be best. Or you could do what I did…start your own blog.


Do You Need to be on Twitter?

January 11, 2009

As promised, here’s where I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of the microblogging platform known as Twitter. One of the interesting things to point out when discussing this service is that it is widely agreed that this is not the most technologically advanced microblogging site out there. It has relatively frequent downtime (periods where you can’t access the site at all) and doesn’t offer all the functionality of competitors like Jaiku and Plurk.

What it does have though is people. Some people put the user figure at almost a million, although it is tricky getting conclusive hard data on the subject. The platform also has a number of celebrities like Barack Obama, Shaquille O’Neil and John Cleese. It also has a number of media organizations like Fox News, CNN and NBC News.

This very high number of prominent people using the service has its advantages. It is attracting more and more media attention, which in turn which attracts more users in an accelerating cycle, at least for now. The important question for you to jump on board is what is the point of all of this attention. The first thing I’ll point you to is a list of the top 20 posts in 2008 on the subject of Twitter. There’s a lot of great information there, but I’m going to focus on one article in particular that talks about the top uses of the service. While this list was voted on by a group of marketers, I think it holds for a variety of different types of users.

  1. Sharing links to items of interest to your network
  2. Networking for new contacts
  3. Reinforcing current network contacts
  4. Promoting specific content
  5. Re-distribution of content from blog, web site
  6. Twitter cat posts: flight delays, eating habits, who knows what and why
  7. Replacement for Facebook updates
  8. Influencing your network to do and think what you want
  9. Group and project communications
  10. Microblogging conferences
  11. Shilling for Digg and other social news votes
  12. Pitching journalists and bloggers

As you can see, this list shows a lot of different potential uses. They basically break down into two areas. Social networking uses and work uses. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but it helps to break it down in this way.

For me, using Twitter as a socially networking tool fails. As item 6 shows, a lot of this can devolve into fairly irrelevant information that everyone who follows you will now see. This can result in a lot of valuable time lost while trying to get to the useful content like the first two items.

However, as a business tool there is a lot to be said for using Twitter. You can attract attention to your product. You can market yourself as a brand, which is especially useful if you are on the job hunt. You can direct traffic to particular areas of the Internet that you’ve found worthwhile, showing your prowess in getting things done.

So for my money, which in this case is actually none, since Twitter is a free service at this point. Twitter is a very useful business tool, if only because other people are paying attention to it. I find it to be a very poor social networking tool when compared to the powerful integration of something like Facebook, which technically offers many of the same function Twitter does in a closed environment for just the people that you choose.


The Internet is all a-Twitter

January 6, 2009

A question that I have been running into more and more frequently lately is, “What is Twitter and do I need to be on it?”

I’ll answer the first half of the question first and deal with the second half of this question in a later post.

In short (ironically enough), Twitter on its most basic levels is a microblogging service. Originally focused on the cell phone text messaging (also known as SMS) limit of 140 characters per message, Twitter is designed to allow people to write short messages about what they are doing, where they are and interesting things that have happened.

Fundamentally, little has changed in the base service. After you go to their site and sign-up for an account, there won’t be much there until you do a couple of things. First, you’ll want to start to “follow” other Twitter users. Once you start doing that, you’ll see their posts underneath your message bar on the web site. If you’d like to follow me, I’m Dustin_Gervais (That’s an underscore, by the way, which you can get by using the shift key, with the hyphen.) As you can see, I don’t have a lot of posts on the site for reasons that I’ll talk about next time.Anyway, many folks have their accounts set up to automatically follow anyone who is following this. I personally don’t recommend this because it can easily become overwhelming to keep up with so many people, many of which you don’t really know.

After you’ve found a few folks to follow, then you can try sending out a couple of messages yourself. How exactly you use the system is up to you, but for what it is worth, I tend to follow people who have interesting things to say on topics I’m interested in.

Hopefully, this brief primer gives you enough of an understanding to either investigate further or figure out that it isn’t really for you, and I’ll talk a little more about some potential uses next time.