September 3, 2008

A cautionary tale about Facebook ad targeting

Washington Post writer Rachel Beckman complains that Facebook inundated her with ads accusing her of being fat and then, when she got engaged, warned her of being a “fat bride”. Now, although she’s newly married or about to be, Facebook is (obviously prematurely) advertising fertility treatments to her.

It’s just the early days, but this sort of thing is bound to create backlash. I don’t think there’s going to be a resolution until people can create profiles so detailed that, for example, they contain the fact that you disapprove of ads about weight-loss aids.

In the short term, e-commerce software vendors should be thinking about how to create UIs that offer most of the benefit of this kind of targeting, but without giving offense.

Sigh. I guess today’s my day for writing about offensive marketing.

September 1, 2008

How good does e-discovery search need to be?

Two years ago, CEO Mike Lynch of Autonomy tried to persuade me that Autonomy was and would remain dominant in the e-discovery search market because: Read more

August 30, 2008

Silly Twitter statistic

In April, the widely respected Louis Gray came up with an uncharacteristically silly idea — the ratio between a Twitterer’s number of followers and total tweets. Recently, Ed Kohler posted about essentially the same thing, without obvious attribution. Gray and Kohler both seem to suggest that the number of your number of followers at any one point in time should be viewed as a guide to how many total tweets you should make over your lifetime use of the service.


At least the whole line of reasoning isn’t as bad as another one I recently discovered on the subject of information overload.

August 29, 2008

Dubious statistic of the decade

In a 2006 white paper, IBM claimed that “just 4 years from now, the world’s information base will be doubling in size every 11 hours.” This week, that statistic was passed on — utterly deadpan — by the Industry Standard and Stephen Arnold. Arnold’s post actually reads as if he takes the figure seriously.

Now, I’ll confess to not having seen the argument in favor of that statistic. But color me skeptical that, by any measure of “information”, it will grow by a factor of more than 2^730 in a year, or 2^7300 in a decade …

August 26, 2008

When homonyms go astray

I can’t tell whether a recent comment to a post of mine is a spoof or not. If it is a spoof, it’s very well done. But if it’s serious, how did that commenter find the thread in the first place??

August 25, 2008

Evidently I’m a social media expert too. Who knew?

Network World asked me to do an online chat. That isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is that they asked me to focus on social media. My views on social media boil down to:

The long form of my views on social media — with a little data warehousing thrown in — may be found here.

In somewhat related news, Jason Fry of the Wall Street Journal showed his exquisite good sense by quoting me carefully about online presence, and expanding upon my points at length.

August 19, 2008

LinkedIn name search is ridiculously bad

Somebody named Conor O’Mahony has posted excellent comments about XML databases on a couple of DBMS2 threads. After a look at the blog URL he provided and the job description he posted there, I resolved to look him up. LinkedIn seemed as good a way as any of figuring out where he was geographically located. But on the first try I typed his name from memory as Conor Mahony. LinkedIn had no idea who I meant.

Once I confirmed that he was indeed listed, I went on to test such errors as Connor Mahony, the very common misspelling of my name as Kurt Monash, and several variations on Dan Weinreb. Almost nothing worked. LinkedIn did get Daniel/Dan, and didn’t require the hyphen in Tony Lacy-Thompson, but otherwise pretty much every misspelling I could think of stumped it. Read more

August 17, 2008

A startup that could improve all our lives

Apostrophee aspires to hugely improve the experience of cyberspace, by applying grammar and spelling correction to online content, especially blog comments and forum posts.

Too bad the article is a spoof.

Reflecting on why it has to be spoof could be somewhat enlightening. 😉

August 7, 2008

Lexalytics has merged with part of Infonic

As reported on the Lexalytics blog, sentiment analysis specialist Lexalytics has merged with the text analytics division of Infonic to form Lexalytics Limited. The deal seems to have a screwy financial structure — which Seth Grimes made a valiant effort to decipher (I think from vacation, poor guy) — as is common when companies much too small to be public wind up trading publicly anyway.

Related links

August 4, 2008

Google vs. Microsoft search, per Seth Grimes

Seth Grimes did a head-to-head comparison of Google and Microsoft Live Search results about the Microsoft/DATAllegro deal, 10 hours after it was announced. He found that Google had picked up a number of relevant results, while Live Search hadn’t. (And this was on the main search pages, not on News or Blogs.) He goes on to note that Yahoo’s “contextual” ads were badly irrelevant (Google didn’t have any at all).

What this boils down to, mainly, seems to be a major win in spidering speed for Google vs. Microsoft Live Search.

And yes Seth — I like you too. 🙂

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