An explosion of technological evolution

I’m lucky to meet some really sharp folks at internet conferences. One such clever fellow is Andy Edmonds – Mozilla Hacker and Microsoft’s search relevancy researcher who writes in his blog:

The technological and attentional commons of the internet has created a radioactively boosted level of technology evolution. It sputters and backfires, but through a nefariously faceted backbone of communications, competition, and collaboration infrastructure is resulting in interesting new forms of business and user activity.
In fact, one might view the rise of Firefox in this light.

You might need to read it again to digest it, but these are simple yet profound points:
The internet is increasingly fertile ground for an explosion of technological evolution.

Variations on this theme are what I’m hearing from many of the clever guys at Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Both the companies and the engineers are passionate about what they are doing and, for the most part, recognize that many of the old rules of carefully guarded proprietary software developments are pretty much out the window.

As if to hammer this last point home Amazon just released the Alexa Search Engine API for pretty much anything anybody wants to do with it. This was not front page news, even online, but reflects what Andy’s talking about in a big way….things are changing….fast.

Joe Bio

No time to blog today so I think I’ll just post the bio I just sent to the excellent folks handling the Nanjing Search Conference where I’m hoping to speak in March. This way I’ll NEVER lose it!

It’s always funny how you focus in on some things more than others depending on your audience, mood, and other factors. It’s hard to be modest and sound expert and experienced at the same time.

Hmm – maybe I should have added how I fixed my parents sump pump and garage door today just by jiggling them. That’s pretty talented, no?

Joseph R. Hunkins
Age: 46
Residence: Talent, Oregon, USA
541-535-7640 (home/office)
541-324-4800 (cell)


Masters in Social Sciences. 1990, Coursework in Multimedia, GIS, and Geography.
Southern Oregon State College (Now S.O.University), Ashland, Oregon 97520.

Bachelor of Science. 1981. Majored in Botany and Psychology.
University of Wisconsin at Madison, WI.

Professional Experience 1990-2005.

Coordinated Internet marketing and multiple website development for the Southern Oregon Visitors Association, a large regional tourism promotion group covering seven counties of Oregon and over 14,000 square miles. Developed organic and pay per click search strategies for several websites.

Managed grant and deployment of statewide touch kiosk Internet system for the state of Oregon, a partnership with the Federal Scenic Byways Program, Oregon Department of Transportation, State Tourism, and the Southern Oregon Visitors Association. Developed organic and pay per click search strategies for several websites. Developed the first commercial websites for Crater Lake National Park and Oregon Caves National Monument.

Presented findings of one of the first online Internet conversion studies at the Travel Industry Association of America’s (TIA) national education conference in Vail, Colorado. Has also spoken extensively in Oregon about Internet marketing strategy for the travel sector.

Board member: California Oregon Intelligent Transportation Systems project. Helped review policies and deployments of travel technology (such as road web cams) for the Northern California and Southern Oregon regions.

Winner of Oregon’s Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Development for creating the partnership and grant that led to Oregon’s first state travel website “”.

Owner: Joe publishes travel information at several regional and national websites he owns using promotion tools including pay per click campaigns and organic search optimization. His largest site is the Airport Directory which is currently undergoing extensive changes.

Partner in Online Highways LLC. This Florence, Oregon internet publishing company works in conjunction with two of the Pacific Northwest’s leading travel magazines “Northwest Travel” and “Oregon Coast Magazine” to produce one of the most comprehensive online travel resources in the world: “Online Highways” website: In addition to approximately ten staff in Florence the project established an Indian owned and managed support office in the state of Kerala India in 2003.

Joe’s work with Online Highways has been primarily in search and company strategy and online advertising development.

“Second Day” working in the new office – how productive can I get?

Well, I think I’ll consider this my first “real” day in the new office. I did work a bit here yesterday but mostly played speed chess. Wireless here is much faster than downstairs, probably due to signal coming through windows vs walls.

I thought I was NOT going to get to speak about Travel internet at SES Nanjing China in March but they may change their minds – apparently they are making it very bilingual and will have translator help. In any case I’ll get to China in some capacity over the next two years because it’s where the action is going to be – perhaps for the next 100 years. Also a wonderful travel place – or so I’ve heard.

I started two new blogs today and hope in doing so to create a better system for organizing my interests. The Founders Blog is resurrecting the architects of the American Experiment and has them commenting on the news and events of today. The Founders are BACK.

Actually the founders are pleased with the success of the American Experiment as an engine of entrepreneurial capitalistic success, but deeply concerned about the degree to which both liberal and conservative governance now obstructs their original ideals. These obstructions include an incomprehensibly monstrous socio-military beauracracy, a bully like American Empire, the erosion of personal and collective liberties in the name of homeland security and global hegemony, taxing the country’s golden geese as well as the middle class to pay for grossly inefficient implementations of health, social services, and military systems, and perhaps most importantly failing to inspire Americans to make our country a shining beacon of freedom and prosperity in a troubled world.

Yup, The Founders are BACK, and boy are they PISSED!

The second blog project is “dialog“, where I’ll be experimenting with a …. better way to use blogs.

The Poetry of Change

Starting to read Tom Friedman’s “The World is Flat”, which in some ways is about my own little world of technology, change, global economic realities, and how things are changing at the speed of cash and technology.

Advertisers at my travel websites over the past few years have come from all over the world – in addition to Google ads which cover the globe, money will sometimes come in from England, Japan, and other places – easily wired into my bank or sent via Paypal. I’ve never met or even spoken with most of the people who pay for advertising at the sites.

At Online Highways we have a team of data / text editors working for us in the southern state of Kerala. Language has been an issue and it’s not clear that the quality of English is high enough to justify outsourcing for writing, though it appears programming quality is equivalent in all but cost.

So from a business perspective the results of my flat world are mixed, but I’m very optimistic for the poor of China and India who, over time, will increasingly fill the thousands of niche service and industrial markets in USA, Japan, and EEC, bringing a higher standard of living and better infrastructure to many in those countries.

I’ve never been very sympathetic to the socialist notion that the developed world prospers by exploiting the undeveloped world. On the contrary I think it’s the absence of advanced capitalist markets that keep the downtrodden … down. Excellent “experimental” evidence supporting this comes from a comparison of the “capitalist free” economy of North Korea with the capital intensive economy of South Korea.

There are exceptions to the rule that capitalism is the answer for the poor, but I see globalized entrepreneurial capitalism as a solution far more than a problem, especially for those mired in undeveloped world poverty. The sooner they can get a higher level of participation in the globalized, developed world economies the faster they can bring needed infrastructure improvements to their countries and raise the standards of living.

I expect the forces now swirling in these directions to slightly lower the standard of living in the developed world, but this is a small price to pay and may even have benefits that are hard to anticipate. Are Smoking, Obesity, and Alcoholism correlated positively with affluence? A good research project for later.

Christmas Day

A fine Christmas Day here in our cozy little world of nice food and family, presents and cheer.

Yet I hope we will all choose to reflect now and into the future about how to better meet the needs of those in this world less fortunate than us, especially the millions who live in abject poverty. Most are victims only of the circumstance of their birth in nations challenged by corrupt rulers, natural disasters, and poor infrastructure.

Edison suggested “There is a better way – find it!” I think…I know…we can.

Being Santa

Tonight I helped the Access Food drive in Medford by dressing up as Santa while food donations were collected on a street whre every house is beautifully lit with Christmas lights. The neighborhood has made it it a tradition there and the event, which gets many thousands of cars over several nights, raises thousands in food and money for the needy. When the guy came in for the next shift and I gave him the suit and he took over, I noticed how I’d passed the celebrity on to him the moment he stepped out, and realized how being Santa, even for just a few hours, was really something special.

Being Santa is a very unique experience, especially fun with the kids who are about 2-4 who think “wow, this is REALLY Santa Claus”. Most of the kids have seen enough Santas that they are polite and enthusiastic, but the look from those few little ones who figure you really are the big guy himself are absolutely priceless. Also nice is the friendliness of almost everybody who drives by, old and young, waving back and wishing Santa a Merry Christmas.


Anagram Server

I was going to skip posting today but ran across this clever little tool – The Internet Anagram Server. Type in your name or any other word combination and get a huge number (all?) possible variations on the letters.

How far are we from an advanced crossword completer? My most excellent mother-in-law Rhoda and friend Devora insisted you could not use Google to complete any but a simple Crossword. I disagreed but when they sent me a NYT I was stumped very quickly.

I’m hoping this is a step in the direction, since I always root for the machines to win over we humans.

Junes Hips Honk

Who’s in charge dot com? – sure isn’t the publishers.

The the balancing act going on between the forces I list below is very interesting, and will grow more important as the internet consolidates it’s position as the key publishing and communications tool of the times – perhaps of all time.

Users of the internet look for info and click on ads. These guys pay everybody’s bills and should be demanding better treatment. Google makes something like 95% of it’s money from … you!

Publishers provide the content and also help make Google and other big company insiders rich in exchange for modest revenue shares to the publisher (probably about 50% for Yahoo Publisher Network and Google Adsense, though neither Google nor Yahoo share this revenue sharing data with the publisher). Over time the rev share should tend to increase as it did with Hotels, which rapidly went from early days at 20% to the current 50% and up on the room commission.

Big companies must maintain profits AND market share, which may compete with each other. e.g. For Adsense and YPN higher payouts mean lower profit but a greater market share of publishers. Loyalty on the internet is a fickle thing – most people are willing to jump from a previous favorite as soon as the strong prospect of greater profit beckons.

Little companies who must promise big profits to investors. Take Squidoo for example – they are trying to minimize the cost of publishing. Will the “experts” cooperate and if YES, how much revenue will they demand? The balance is extremely important to publishers. If Squidoo can get publishing on the cheap from the legions of well qualified yet bored and “ready to write” internet users, most “quality” online publishers may be hard pressed to match that content with even poorly paid writers.

Higher quality, extra interesting publishers may be able to maintain an audience and tap into the type of thing John Battelle is working on with his Federated Media project – a high yield advertising system that matches users/advertisers/publishers in new and better ways.

To Squidoo or not to Squidoo, that is the Question …

I’ve been testing two new ideas in search: Yahoo Answers and

Yahoo Answers shows a lot of promise – it allows users to post questions, answer questions, and score points and eventually perhaps payment for participation. However I’ve been disappointed in the low quality of many of the answers to my test questions and other questions I’ve reviewed. Projects like this need people to take the project very seriously or it won’t have quality.

SQUIDOO is a very interesting idea – basically a variation on the concept where experts offer high quality articles about all sorts of topics and are ranked and paid as users interact with the information.

I’ve been testing it a bit and developed a “lens”, or Squidoo web page, for Las Vegas. The system is easy to use, but I kept getting the feeling I was just setting up Squidoo to make most of the money from work better put to use on my own websites. Their total claimed revenue share payout is a pitiful few hundred dollars to what must be hundreds and hundreds of “lensmasters”.

Unless Squidoo has some great way to optimize for search engines (and I doubt they do), the articles there are probably no more likely to get good ranks than, for example, a blog at Google’s on which the publisher can run adsense.

Since Squidoo has financing by a major VC firm with a bunch of heavy hitters like Marc Andreesen, a large percentage of the value will flow to them and not publishers.

Verdict so far: Squidoo doo is a no do.