Archive for July, 2008

Things that tick me off: Google KNOL doesn’t syndicate

Google Knol made a ridiculously loud fat-man-diving-into-kiddie-pool splash last week. Why? Three reasons:

a) Google is involved, and anything with our Interwebs overlords in charge should be greeted with deference.

b) Wikipedia might get crushed in the process. Nerdy Wikipedia editors are just so annoying, after all.

c) The content, at least for the seed list of topics, is FANTASTIC.

Most of the articles have been licensed under Creative Commons. So why the hell is it so hard to get to the content via XML? Let’s say I want to syndicate Knol Content on my site? Why can’t I do that? There isn’t even an RSS feed that will let me get to the first 1000 characters of the Knol.

That blows. And Google should really fix it.

Categories: reviews, snarky, tech Tags: , ,

A Few More Thoughts on the Cuil Launch

Since I’m just an overexcited Internet fanboy at heart, I cranked out a post for VentureBeat late last night. You can find it here¬†or via The Industry Standard here.

Categories: tech

A Few Thoughts on Cuil: The Least Disappointing Search Launch in a While

July 28, 2008 10 comments

After not much fanfare but plenty of anticipation, Cuil has launched.

As expected, the general blogosphere coverage of Cuil has been sub par (except for Danny Sullivan’s EXCELLENT review; in depth and trenchant as usual), mostly because the service simply wasn’t available until 9pm. Also, most mainstream blogs that test search products miss the obvious things to check for (spam, porn, relevance, link analysis, etc.). Today, the stories to be found on TechMeme are either focused on index size (mine is bigger) or on the backgrounds of the founders (who gives a rat’s ass?).

I decided to kick the tires on Cuil and the short review is: the least disappointing search engine launch in quite a while.

Quintura? Not so much. Hakia? Mmm, no. Ask? Yeah, nice UI but didn’t have the stomach to push it. Mahalo? Nice, but don’t even get me started, I should be ashamed of myself for putting it on the list. PowerSet? Interesting, but they have a LONG LONG way to go, hopefully the road is easier with M$ dollars.

Here are a few things at Cuil which are very nice:

  • It works reasonably for tail terms. I tried “12 year old with diabetes”, “who built the eiffel tower”, “swimmer’s itch” and a host of others. Sometimes the results are less than stellar but there were very few chokeathons. Try any of the search players above on a really obscure term and you’ll define the word chokeathon for yourself.
  • The magazine layout (or the grid layout, to be more precise) makes scanning easy. I like the presence of anchor images everywhere even though the images themselves are sometimes BS.
  • The refinements and exploration jump off points offered are usually very nice. If I do say so myself, Kosmix does better on the “Related in the Kosmos” block, definitely so in Health.
  • Love the autocomplete’s execution on the search box. Ask has already offered this so it ain’t a first, but its very well done and quite accurate for my tests.
  • It supports site: which a lot of new search engines don’t support. Good on you, Cuil.

Now, here are all the things that are currently blowing chunks:

  • Its not fully stable. I saw an empty page for “Barack Obama” as well as for “salmonella”. A refresh fixed it each time.
  • Spam is an unsolved problem: You cant claim to be good until you remove the domain parker in result #4 for Viagra, which is a VERY popular search.
  • A colleague (who shall remain unnamed) sent me a query called “getting rid of bats”, which produces a virus on the first result. That is just NOT COOL (pun intended).
  • Sometimes, the images are bullshit.
  • Google Universal Search RULES for things that are newsworthy or imageworthy. Try “salmonella” on Google and find news results because of the latest food scare. None to be found on Cuil. Presumably, “universal” search is something they could work on because this is necessary but not sufficient for success. Similarly, their local offering is bound to blow.

All in all, a big congratulations to Cuil for pulling over what many others have failed spectularly to do. Now, please get back to work and roll me a better offering.

As for those of you that think Kosmix is still working on what is generally known as search, check out this post:

Categories: life

Things that tick me off: gratuitous office whiteboard usage

July 20, 2008 4 comments

The whiteboard is a sacred Silicon Valley office artifact. No matter how scrappy your startup, if you ain’t got 2 whiteboards for every warm body in the office/garage/homeless-box, you ain’t a real company.

The whiteboard is a company’s mission statement, its values, its creed and its soul rolled into a smooth white surface. Whenever I walk into a startup’s office, I look at their whiteboards like women look at their date’s shoes. Are they squeaky clean because the admin has a mild case of OCD (no joking matter, btw)? Are they littered with pseudocode scribbles because some engineer drank down a 40 and decided to show off? Did someone draw a naughty version of Dijkstra’s shortest path (don’t ask)?

As with shoes and men, you can tell a lot about a company from their whiteboards.

That’s why I’m pissed off when people use whiteboards for stupid, obvious shit that discredits the written form. I’m in a meeting and we’re brainstorming ideas, discussing tasks for a project, figuring out timelines. Someone will invariably stand up suddenly and motion excitably with a hand wave; they’re looking for a marker.

At this point, I get myself primed! I clear my brain; something interesting is about to happen. Maybe he’ll write down an algorithm that will solve my problem. Maybe he’ll just scrawl a mathematical formula John Nash-like and demonstrate to me superior intellect while I nod along like a chump. Sometimes, I just blank my brain and get ready to be schooled like I’m back in junior high.

But then they pick up the stupid marker and start making a dumb list. Or put down a stupid non sequitur like “Its about persistence”. Or start drawing a crude Gantt chart, which just makes my head explode.

People: whiteboards are for math, code and software architecture diagrams that are simply too beautiful to be put down on Visio. Do NOT draw dumb “strategy boxes” on them.

This shit has to stop (random aside, I’m thinking about copyrighting that line. Idea of the year?).

Lazy Linking: iPhone wannabes, meet AppStore

July 18, 2008 1 comment

I’d rather not blog than be a lameass lazy habitual linker. But this article is different. Written last month about how Apple was courting developers aggressively, the article presciently talks about the marvel that is the AppStore.

To me, this is the true disruption. For the first time that I can think of, mobile developers can bypass carriers altogether and get to the end consumer. Sure, they gotta write some bitchy Objective C code (vomit) but hey, whatever. Have you seen some of these apps?

Its like a tasty tech snack.

Oh yeah, and the Samsung Instinct. What chump would make an argument that this POS is an iPhone killer after July 11th?

Categories: tech Tags: , ,

Dear Google: screw your day care, can you please just pay for my meals?

July 6, 2008 1 comment

As a card carrying yet-to-surrender-to-buy-and-large (thanks Wall-E) member of the startup cult, I’m just giddy over this.

First, Valleywag started bitching over Google’s callous “disregard” for children and for fleecing employees by charging a boatload for daycare.

Then, The New York Times (please pronounce propuhly) dove right in for a nice hatchet job. Brin is evil. His sister in law is a witch. Parents are pissed off and are holding their now-neglected poor kiddies up towards the sky, Simba-like, in a desperate prayer for deliverance.


Now – I get it. I’m 26, irresponsible, immature, nowhere close to even considering marriage and absolutely worthless as a potential father. Sometimes, I pay 80 dollars for a shirt while completely forgetting that I came from NOTHING. In other words, I don’t know much and am a carefree yuppie freak.

But I’m just amazed that Google even paid for daycare in the first place. I’ve seen and heard of companies where the cashews in the kitchen are counted as perks. And that’s in Silicon Valley! As a 19 year old, I worked in the marketing research department of a Midwestern utility company (this was pre-Enron and trading utilities was actually kind of hot. Ewww).

You know what the kitchen contained? Black coffee. If you wanted half and half, you had to carry your happy ass down to Starbucks. Failing that, you could use the little creamer packets and be happy you had a job in 2001.

I know its Silicon Valley and we’re all special, but get a grip, people. While Google clearly fux0red this BIG TIME, cheap daycare is not common. Let’s be real.

Categories: silicon valley, snarky

Saumil’s Guide to Stupid ValleySpeak: Classic

For n00bs to this blog check out:

This one is borrowed straight from the marketing trash bin of good, old fashioned brick and mortar products. Let’s say that you have a web site. Let’s say that the site serves as a marketplace for connoisseurs of udon. I know, the wholesale market for a wheat-based noodle is probably small, but work with me here.

Let’s say that your site is just a royal crap-hole. It stinks. You’ve got an animated ticker on the home page with noodles flying from one end of the screen to another. Your users hate it. Your wife hates it. Even the annoying-ass kid who has a snot problem claims to be able to do better.

What do you do? You start building “version 2.0”, of course!!! Its a whole version up from the current version – it MUST be better.

But what do you do with version 1.0? You can’t dis it too much – people may get offended.

That’s when you start calling it CLASSIC.

Categories: corporatespeak